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Subex Takes DIM Approach to Dirty Data

Ray Le Maistre
11/30/2011

The problem of "dirty data" –- inaccurate data about a network's elements and services –- has existed as long as networks themselves and is one that is repeatedly cited as an operational and business hazard.

To hammer home that point, Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) systems specialist Subex Ltd. commissioned an industry survey to illustrate the severity of the problem. (See Subex Unveils Dirty Data Survey.)

The results of the survey, conducted by Heavy Reading , found that:

  • Of the 141 service provider respondents to the survey, only 18 percent said their companies had deployed discovery and reconciliation solutions
  • Fewer than half said their companies had deployed network inventory management systems, which often come packaged with network discovery tools
  • About 40 percent believe that more than 10 percent of order fallouts are due to inaccurate inventory data
  • About 40 percent estimate their companies' inventory data are less than 80 percent accurate
  • More than 50 percent still use ad hoc manual processes to perform data accuracy checks
  • More than 70 percent say their companies are either investing in, or plan to purchase in the next 12 months, a discovery and reconciliation solution


Basically, there's an almost unquantifiable volume of inaccurate data in service provider back-offices that is not just causing orders to go unfulfilled but also adversely affecting network operator capex and opex budgets because they don't know exactly what resources they have in their networks (from layer 0-3) and how much of that equipment's capacity is being used.

In fact, Subex estimates from its own experience (and separately from the survey) that network operators can recover 2.7 percent of their capital expenditure by using an effective discovery and reconciliation strategy to discover and put back into use network assets that have been stranded or lost. And if you're AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), with an annual capex budget of around $19 billion, that would equate to hundreds of millions of dollars of kit each year. (See AT&T Plans Slight Capex Dip in 2011.)

Now, Subex isn't just plucking that sum out of the air. Its executives say that comes from the kind of return they have seen carriers get by using its Data Integrity Management (DIM) offering, which is used by AT&T, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) (for its 21CN), Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) , Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), with Canada's Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) about to deploy.

The DIM set of software and processes isn't new but has been recently enhanced. It was originally known as TrueSource, a product developed by CoManage, which was acquired by Syndesis in 2005. Syndesis was then acquired by Subex in 2007. (See Subex Updates Data Integrity Tool, Syndesis Acquires CoManage and Syndesis Strikes $165M Takeover.)

When Subex sold most of its Syndesis assets recently to NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), it hung on to the old CoManage assets as it sees data integrity as a growth area.

Real demand
So is Subex seeing a lot of demand for data integrity capabilities in the market just now, given that the survey results suggest there's a lot of imminent investment in discovery and reconciliation tools?

Subex Director of Product Management Sam Torrente says there are a number of RFIs (requests for information) in the market -- he cites Türk Telekomunikasyon A.S. as an example of one operator looking for suggestions on how to deal with data integrity issues -- while the vendor's president of EMEA, Paul Skillen, says the "pipeline of opportunities" is improving, which is why Subex held on to the DIM asset.

So as opportunities arise, who will Subex finds itself in competition with to land data integrity-related deals? The network inventory management vendors, certainly. Those would include Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), NEC (NetCracker), Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) and Telcordia Technologies Inc. .

Torrente, though, claims those vendors tend to have tools that provide an operations team with a lot of data that is then hard to act upon. Subex's offering, he notes, includes a plan that involves tools (to identify stranded assets), processes and people, along with a framework that enables operators to identify the most valuable assets (in terms of their importance to service provisioning and network efficiency) that can then be prioritized for recovery. In addition, there are dashboard-type interfaces that highlight potential savings and efficiencies for an operator's CFO.

But there are others that, like Subex, have seen value in tackling the dirty data issue. Nakina Systems Inc. (also name-checked by the Subex team), for example, and Ontology Systems . (See Ontology Offers SiFi Solution, Telenor Denmark Uses Ontology OSS, Nakina Teams With NSN and Ontology Reports on Dirty Data.)

The big question is not whether dirty data is a problem for network operators -- it indisputably is -- but whether any of these companies, Subex included, have an approach that can make a meaningful difference to the veracity of network inventory data and, consequently, positively affect a carrier's operational efficiency and financials.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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