Shifting OSP network management in the face of system obsolescence

I started my career supporting utilities and their GIS programs, specifically migrating their legacy CAD-based technologies to the latest in Esri-based GIS platforms.  Interestingly, a successful migration was not necessarily predicated on a better user experience; but rather, success was measured by the vision and commitment of the customer to change.  They knew, for instance, that user adoption would be a slow and painful process and that efficiencies gained would be measured by the operational impact, as opposed to the individual user experience.  Enabling the larger organization with the data it needed to make clear and concise decisions was going to be critical in either maintaining a competitive advantage or, for the public utility, delivering quality services at an affordable price. While this change has not been easy, GIS-based technologies are now a critical component to most if not all utilities around the globe. 

Communications service providers (CSPs), however, have historically been slow to adopt these types of technologies.  There are a multitude of factors that are contributing to the pace of adoption; but overwhelmingly, larger telecommunications companies have been hesitant to change due to the potential risk and complexity of modernizing their platforms.  Not only are legacy technologies often beloved by the user community, they have for over 20 years built workflows and downstream integrations critical to revenue generation.  Juxtaposed with current pressures to expand their outside plant (OSP) network assets, organizations simply do not have the time or resources to commit to sweeping changes across their enterprise platforms. 

However, several of these legacy technologies have found it difficult to maintain their solutions and keep pace with the changing network expansion pressures and, as such, have either announced an expiration date or are simply choosing not to invest in their platforms moving forward.  CSPs using these technologies are now realizing the gravity of their situation and will require an application modernization strategy capable of moving them from their historical deployments to a next generation, enterprise-ready technology capable of sustained growth into the future. 

The market is at a crossroads when it comes to their OSP network management or physical network inventory platform decisions.  Many of the historical players in this space have determined future investment is not in line with their core business strategy and, as such, have announced the demise of their products.  Ericsson Network Engineer is such an example.  Others in the space are faced with significant challenges related to the underlying platform they have built their solutions on.  Examples of these include Schneider Electric’s Fiber Manager which is built leveraging an end-of-life implementation solution by Esri and will require significant investment to migrate to a different implementation method when available.  We also have new entrants in the market branding themselves as a SaaS only solution for network management but have little to no presence supporting large enterprise customers.  Then there are major players such as GE Smallworld’s product offering, a long-lasting albeit expensive and closed environment for managing network assets.  Given the diversity of solutions and their location in the product lifecycle journey, one can understand the difficulty CSPs are faced with as they are evaluating their options to modernize their platforms and align them to a seemingly simple business requirement as application longevity.   

Many of the discussions I am having with the market revolve around the business benefit of migrating the network management platform to a current solution, realizing the impact to the organization will be far greater than the pain of the individual user.  While we know this will not be an easy journey, one should take solace in the fact that other industries have weathered similar challenges and come out better as a result.  I can spout off statistics indicating this success in terms of more homes passed or increased revenue through existing asset utilization, but these likely are not the main drivers of the decision today--rather additional benefits that can be gained as a result of migrating from your legacy technologies. 

While we understand the fear associated with your current technology and its end of life is palpable, rest assured there are options that exist today that can position your business for future success.  So here we are, over 20 years later from when the utilities market faced similar decisions.  Adoption of these types of technologies did not occur overnight; but, in looking back, it would be a struggle to identify one utility that would not espouse the benefits of the change.   Software vendors have been ambiguous in ensuring their technologies will have a long-term support plan while others have been decisive in announcing their end-of-life technologies, which begs the question, are you on a long-term path with your vendor or should you be considering your future-proof alternative?  If you’re unsure, we can help in evaluating your current condition and supplying you with a roadmap to migration.  Either way, we are here for you as you navigate through the challenges ahead. 


As always, if you have questions about how 3-GIS products and/or services can help ensure you have a good design and deliver constructible documentation, feel free to reach out to us here.

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