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GRAVITY BLOG

Keeping the Lights on With Advanced Analytics

 8 May 2017 /  Mitch Simcoe, Director of Global Consulting at Ciena

Utility companies are facing increasingly daunting challenges when it comes to network reliability and maintaining legacy SONET/SDH infrastructure. However, with Ciena’s Advanced Analytics capabilities, the power to keep the lights on with big data has become a reality.

In 2003, the northeastern U.S. suffered the largest power blackout in the nation’s history. For two days, 50 million subscribers in eight states and parts of Ontario lost power, resulting in an estimated $6 billion in economic losses. According to the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, the primary cause of the outage was an inability to recognize, assess, and understand the inadequacies and deterioration of parts of the power grid over large areas. In other words, too little too late.

These types of failures have a massive impact on utilities companies – their reputation may be permanently damaged, and they can be responsible for paying up to millions of dollars in penalties. According to a 2016 survey by Black & Veatch, more than ten years after the 2003 blackout, network reliability is still the number one priority of the utility industry. In those ten years, lack of network visibility and changing infrastructure have remained key challenges to reliability.

It’s not just knowledge that’s disappearing; the physical components of SONET circuit packs are no longer manufactured and SONET spares themselves are increasingly hard to come by, with many spare parts able to be sourced only on marketplaces like eBay, if at all.

Legacy SONET/SDH networks are still widespread, but it is more difficult than ever for utilities to manage and maintain network conditions and inventory. Add to that the fact that nearly a third of the workforce is expected to retire in the next five years, taking valuable intelligence, skills, and experience with them when they go, and the challenge becomes even more crystalline. And it’s not just knowledge that’s disappearing; the physical components of SONET circuit packs are no longer manufactured and SONET spares themselves are increasingly hard to come by, with many spare parts able to be sourced only on marketplaces like eBay, if at all.

eBay? Sounds bleak. But there are solutions.

Advanced analytics is sophisticated technology that reveals meaningful patterns in data or content, helping utilities make the smartest decisions possible for meeting specific business and operational goals. Whether it’s increasing reliability or proactively identifying trouble spots, with advanced analytics in the toolbox, utilities can act strategically and confidently when it comes to their networks. These analytics can take several forms:

  • Descriptive analytics interpret historical data to determine what has happened.
  • Predictive analytics evaluate historical patterns to predict what might happen.
  • Prescriptive analytics predict several outcomes for a scenario to help establish the best possible solution.

Ciena offers several applications to help support utilities’ critical missions and keep the network up and running. Network Health Predictor (NHP), and Topology Discovery are two applications available as part of Blue Planet Analytics (BPA), bringing real-time data intelligence to support proactive utility network assurance.

Blue Planet Analytics (BPA) enables the intelligent automation and operation of today’s fast-evolving networks. BPA consists of two parts: A robust and flexible software framework responsible for collecting and normalizing data gathered from across a utility network, and advanced upper-layer analytics applications (which can be either developed by Ciena or third parties) designed to work with the framework to address specific business or operational needs. 

Network Health Predictor (NHP) is a Ciena-developed analytics application that works with BPA to enable proactive network assurance. NHP interprets the real-time state of the network and its equipment, using advanced visualization capabilities to allow utilities to identify trends and spot areas of risk. With NHP, utilities can address problems before they happen to increase network reliability and significantly reduce downtime and associated penalties. 

Topology Discovery is an advanced algorithm delivered as a service today and planned as a BP analytics application in the future that analyzes connectivity and utilization allowing users to develop an inventory of network equipment, optimize network performance and utilization, recover unused assets and bandwidth, and improve operational decision-making. This advanced algorithm determines the physical connectivity of multi-vendor TDM components and new packet networking equipment and characterizes the utilization of each link.

Advanced analytics are an intelligent new weapon in the quest to avoid “the next big outage.” Ciena’s analytics solutions provide utilities with the insight needed to rapidly modernize network management in order to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they become large-scale crises.

Big data. Advanced analytics. Predicting the future. The stakes are high for utility companies but the tools needed to get ahead are more powerful than ever. And they’re here now.

This post originally appeared on the Ciena Network Insights blog.

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