Why do we need active & live inventory?
With NFV and SDN getting realized, the way Communication Service Providers operate will change. The fulfilment and assurance process will change. The fulfilment process will have to leverage the dynamic capability of the network and provide services in an efficient manner. The ordering process will have to change as the network is dynamic. The conventional ‘Reserve Inventory’ and ‘Activate Network’ approach will have to change. Inventory will be real-time and should reflect the changes in network immediately unlike the conventional ‘discover and reconcile’ method. Network will be able to scale up and down, thereby optimizing resources. Self-healing and closed-loop assurance is becoming a reality. To facilitate all of this, we will need an active and live inventory in the ecosystem.
What are the challenges?
Future Networks are not going to be completely Virtualized. We will have to live with a Hybrid Network for a long time. Active Inventory will need to be hybrid in nature and should be capable of managing VNFs and PNFs seamlessly.
Inventory will be updated at a given point of time by various OSS processes. While the resource is getting updated by the fulfilment process, assurance process or capacity management process will change it immediately based on the dynamic characteristics of network. Active Inventory should be able to cope with dynamic characteristics.
As discussed, inventory will become more critical in all the OSS processes. The number of active transactions in the inventory system is going to increase multifold, in order to keep it active and live. Hence, inventory is required to be highly scalable and available.
OSS processes will change. Operations will be able to enable services on-demand. Adaptability of process by service providers and leveraging the benefits will become key factors for success.
Key characteristics of active & live inventory
Transitioning to a fully virtualized world will take ages. Communication service providers will operate in a hybrid world for a long time. Hence, the active inventory should also be equipped with necessary abstraction or federation to manage hybrid networks. This will be required to consolidate today’s legacy, silo inventories and create a new layer of active and near-real time inventory.
With the advent of 5G, network slices will be created based on-demand. Just-in-time creation and deployment of virtual network will be common. Active inventory should be capable of creating transient networking components like network slices in the inventory by stitching together existing components for a communication path.
Efficient data access and management
Owing to the dynamic nature of VNFs, the amount of CRUD (Create, Read, Update & Delete) operations on inventory data will increase multifold compared to conventional inventory management systems. Hence, data access to inventory shall be done through in-memory cache. The database should be Topology DB / Graph DB based which will enable dynamism and flexibility.
TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications) is a proven industry modelling language. The TOSCA includes concepts such as nodes and relationships, whereby a node is an infrastructure such as a network, subnet, or a server software component. The use of this model in building Active Inventory will enable the ability to interface with MANO and other systems in the future.
A comprehensive view of how Active and Live Inventory will host VNFs and co-exist in a future OSS architecture for hybrid networks is depicted in the diagram below.