What is Planning and Capacity Management?

I am reposting here my response to a discussion on the OSS/BSS Professionals LinkedIn group, with some edits for clarity. The question, to paraphrase, was ‘what planning and capacity management tools are out there…’

‘Planning’ covers a lot of ground. After all, ‘planning’ is basically doing some analysis, checks, or having a bit of a think before going ahead and changing the network, buying equipment or trying to turn on a service.

Inventory-centric fulfilment systems like Amdocs Cramer, Telcordia Granite, NEC Netcracker and Oracle Metasolv (et al) focus on planning the ‘now’ or ‘committed’ network. They tell you what the network looks like today, exactly which resource (timeslot, port…) you can allocate to a service order. They will also give you a snapshot of the network utilisation today, so you could see, for example, if some resource has hit 90% utilisation.

Some of those inventory solutions also have trends/threshold to track resource consumption, and may also offer tools to plan build-out of new network (how to knit-in a new ring or deploy more fibres in the ground). I guess you could say they take a ‘bottom up’ approach to capacity planning – looking at the network rather than the market.

Capacity planning should start much sooner than the point an order is received or a resource hits 90% utilisation. So dedicated planning products, like those from my day-job sponsor Aria Networks, address planning from a top-down market-driven perspective:

  • What are the business requirements?
  • What are the service forecasts?
  • How can I best support these on my network going forward?

These sorts of solutions will have a more ‘economic’ view of the network and services, along with physical/logical resource capacity, to allow analysis of how the service provider can increase efficiency in the network this month, this quarter, and next year.

The other thing solutions like Aria Networks have to address, unlike inventory products, is ‘what-if’ and strategic planning. For example, wire line operators are looking at introducing CDN (or Cloud, or IP over Optical, or…). Capacity planning tools need to be able to analyse the many hundreds or thousands of deployment options, vendors, device locations and parameters in order to tell the operator whether CDN is going to solve their capacity crunch issues and do so in a way that is likely to offer a return on investment. This sort of ‘network analytics’ is very different from the necessarily ‘static’ current view of inventory systems.

Ok, I’ve just compared two broad sets of planning products there: Inventory and capacity planning. Other systems have a hand in planning as well; Vendor network management tools, GIS for inside/outside plant, engineering planning tools like VPI and Wandl, packet simulators like Opnet.

All have a role to play. So what do you want to plan?