After many years languishing at the bottom of the list of upgrade candidates, it seems that network inventory transformation is now back in vogue for operators of all sizes.

Whilst legacy inventory solutions themselves have remained pivotal to the delivery of operators’ most essential processes, the appetite for investment has arguably stagnated for a number of years. However, this trend has clearly changed in recent times, and network inventory is once more garnering the attention, and investment, that it rightly deserves.

There are a few key reasons why the market position has changed, but fundamentally it has to do with adaptability that drives a competitive advantage. Clearly, the trend of increased network virtualisation and cloudification has been underway for a number of years.

There had been a perception by some that virtualisation, and the orchestrators that support it, would sound the death knell for network inventory. However, that perception is changing to realise that network inventory management not only remains essential, but now supplies data that needs to be accurate in near-real-time to meet modern demands.

This concept of active inventory is now seen as such a useful competitive advantage by the market that it’s inspiring a new wave of investment and inventory product development. The days when inventory was only reconciled once a day or once a week is not fast enough to support the resource allocation and tracking of dynamic, virtualised networks of today.

Product, Service, and Resource (PSR) inventory data not only needs to be collected from the network in near real-time, but it needs to be stitched together intelligently to support multi-domain use-cases across assurance, fulfillment, and network planning (capacity/resource management). Data federation and careful stitching is important to take disparate data sources across physical, logical, and virtual objects and build the hierarchies/relationships that allow sophisticated associations to be made.

These intelligent layers of OSS inventory data help to tie together other recent investments in orchestrators, catalogs and automated/algorithmic techniques such as AIOps.  But carefully layered active inventory data doesn’t just support these machine-to-machine use-cases.

We’re on the cusp of a revolution in data visualisation that’s tied back to a base layer of network assets and connectivity.

It also supports the very human interfaces of assets and connectivity on map and topological views. These connected network graphs are only the starting point for visualising and understanding network operator data. They also provide a base-layer for stacking myriad other data points on top – from demographics to network / service health to consumption to revenue generation (ARPU) to private customer network maps and so much more.

We’re on the cusp of a revolution in data visualisation that’s tied back to a base layer of network assets and connectivity. Expect to see advanced network maps and situation enrichment that leverage three-dimensional space and time once virtual and augmented reality visualisation becomes more commonplace. These techniques will provide immersive network visibility and ways-of-working that are far more intuitive than what we’ve seen before.

Inventory has always been the great connector, but the next-gen network inventory management solutions of today and into the future enable a wide variety of benefits:

  1. Optimal, just-in-time allocation of resources and capacity utilisation , including power optimisation, which aids operators in meeting their sustainability targets
  2. Reliable automation that drives increases in productivity and efficiency
  3. Faster, enriched operational insight generation
  4. More up-to-date awareness of what’s currently happening in the network and the services that traverse it
  5. Improved network and service health as well as the customer experience associated with it
  6. Increased product, operational and corporate adaptability
  7. Targeted fault-fix intelligence to improve network availability
  8. Sophisticated network topologies and resource allocation such as network slicing, SD-WANs, private networks
  9. Closed-loop, self-optimising and self-healing autonomous network architectures
  10. Almost unlimited scalability across any dimension of the network – device count, topology type, device type, product offerings, services and more

Many network operators have known that their inventory solutions simply don’t support most of these modern, sophisticated use-cases. They’ve known that they’re simply kicking the proverbial can down the road, delaying the inevitable decision when a more modern, dynamic inventory solution will be required to meet the evolving needs of the organisation and the networks it manages.

In part, this is because embarking on a significant transformation project like an inventory upgrade can be daunting. These challenges are partly, but not completely, offset by newer architectural paradigms that have supplanted the monolithic inventory solutions of the past and made transformations more seamless.

However, it’s ultimately the benefits of next-generation inventory that is driving renewed interest. It’s clear that traditional inventory solutions are simply unable to unleash the potential of modern, dynamic, flexible networks that operators continue to invest in.

Interested in learning more? Watch our on-demand webinar on the future of network inventory.