De-Mystifying AMI Infrastructure Management
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AMI Infrastructure management is critical to utilities business to ensure higher network availability, secure communications and have a framework to effectively manage smart metering infrastructure with the ability to scale. As utilities are busy deploying millions of smart meters in the field today, they are constantly bogged down in putting out "fires" and ensuring systems stabilization on a daily basis. As a result network and IT management and monitoring don't get the attention it deserves. Utilities typically depend on AMI vendor provided monitoring tools to do the job.
There are many network management architectures and models proposed by various standards organizations and vendors. Utilities need to realize that AMI infrastructure management doesn't end after implementing a fault correlation engine. It becomes imperative for utilities to understand the key concepts of available models and break the tasks of managing network into smaller functions and develop a road map for better alignment of IT and business.
A review of two commonly used models / frameworks -- FCAPS and ITIL suggests that they overlap each other in terms of the concepts. Historically IT industry does not have an enviable track record in addressing the issues of infrastructure management primarily due to absence of a well thought out implementation strategy. The purpose of this white paper is to de-mystify the available common models and provide a good place to start.
FCAPS vs ITIL:
FCAPS (Fault, Configuration, Accounting, Performance and Security) model is a well known & proven model used in telecommunication. The model enables improvement in terms of network reliability & security which are the primary business objectives of any utility.
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is collection of best practices in the areas of information technologies service delivery & support. AMI is opening new dimension for offerings innovative services to customer which needs optimum assurance of effective service delivery & service reliability. ITIL best practices will definitely help utilities to minimize, monitor, and control the risks in the areas of infrastructure management.
Below table lists some key activities in the area of AMI and its mapping with the FCAPS model & ITIL framework:
Adoption of best practices has always been a bumpy ride. As long as IP based AMI infrastructure management is concerned, the FCAPS disciplines remain valid and existing vendor provided network management tools can be preserved. The primary challenge comes if we plan to extend the capabilities of management solutions into the application layer. The real benefit of operational management investments can be achieved by extending infrastructure management and monitoring to systems and application layer. This would provide a holistic business services impact and FCAPS fails to address these broader aspects of Service management. Hence the opportunity for an overarching set of best practices like ITIL was inevitable.
As part of the AMI implementation, Utilities would already have a Network management component (typically vendor provided) that focuses on transport layer monitoring and fault recovery. The Network operations center follows a reactive management process to detect network faults and work on remediation steps.
As a next step, utilities would feel the need to expand their management scope from network nodes to include monitoring health of the underlying systems, applications and storage (MDMS, head-end systems and RF NAN health) that forms the base of the AMI network. This type of management would be based on the FCAPS model.
As a final step, it would be imperative for utilities to realize the benefits of end to end service management capability. The enterprise wide service management and monitoring will ensure that key business processes like routine billing requests are performing as per specifications. The SLA's promised by the AMI vendors are met and the business impacts of faults are identified and quantified.
The roadmap if embraced wisely, can serve as a bridge between IT Operations and Business. With ITIL as a standard template, Utilities can adopt the best practices to provide a set of processes and methodologies to be leveraged throughout the deployment and ongoing operations. The real business value of employing these best practices would result in:
- Increased productivity of the IT Operations group.
- The ability to manage edge network elements remotely from the data center with minimal field staff.
- The ability to predict and prevent performance issues long before it is discovered by the customer.
- Reduction in trouble ticket redundancy resulting in cost and effort reduction.
- Improved visibility into all the network resources.
- Discovery of optimal resource utilization for future planning.