Companies dedicate vast resources to its ‘Operational Support Systems’ (OSS) monitoring platforms in both in human and monetary commitment. Initial costs can be high, and hidden costs compound the burden. Sometimes the cost of a monitoring platform can be become almost undefinable. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a method that helps OSS managers comprehend and control the planned and planned costs of an OSS platform throughout its lifespan.
The lifespan of an OSS platform has six stages:
- Acquire. The company evaluates its needs, industry standards, and current technologies. RFPs are sent out, responses are assessed. Vendor is selected and ‘High Level Designs’ are undertaken.
- Integrate. The system is installed, and the project continually managed though out delivery stage. Training and support plans are established.
- Support. Platform admin staff, maintenance support, and disaster recovery plans are arranged.
- Development. An OSS platform is never complete, new systems are integrated with it over the life of the system. Enhancements are requested by users to improve work flow processes. Current systems that integrate with the OSS platform are upgraded and this in turn requires that the OSS platform be changed or enhanced in some way.
- Upgrade. At some point (often too soon), hardware and software becomes outdated, and needs upgrades. If upgrades are put off until a later date, this shall bring other problems of systems not being able to keep up with demand or making upgrades more difficult because of jumping from a much older release to the current one.
The upfront expenses of a network comprise only 1/5th of the total cost. The remaining 4/5th’s can take company management by surprise, often unacquainted of some elusive TCO aspects.
Planned costs are usually two-fold. The first part of expenditures can be directly linked to the OSS platform, like hardware and software. The second part of planned costs is labour, including developers and support personnel.
Management should budget for costs of all employees directly managing and supporting the platform, in addition to outside management and maintenance fees. On the support end, costs can be broken into Operations labour, Operations fees, and Help Desk support. Operations labor includes management and administrative assistance needed for support. Formal training of platform admin staff is also a factor, in addition to end-user training.
The more elusive figures fall under the unbudgeted category. Includes productivity lost to end-user frustration, troubleshooting problems and providing informal IT assistance to co-workers. Productivity drops and revenue is lost when as OSS platform is inoperable or inaccessible. If the platform simply is unwieldy (slow to respond etc.) then this also effects then this also effects productivity.
Unbudgeted expenses often add enormously to the TCO. And, without understanding precisely what the costs arise from, management cannot control them. Fortunately, there is a way for management to keep expenses in check. Knowledge establishes control. Awareness of the root causes for network expenditures gives Management and IT personnel the power to evaluate unacceptable conditions and change them.
6 Ways to Control the TCO:
1. Standardize hardware and software purchases. Fewer technology platforms mean lower costs. Defining standards takes only upfront time, with periodic evaluations. As components wear out and become outdated, replace them uniformly across the organization. Upholding policies becomes the test. In the end, the strongest policy will fail without actions to enforce it. Defined standards will help a company establish training requirements and reduce the costs of hardware upgrades.
Monolith Software coupled with Red Hat Linux (or Centos) allows this to happen. Having a single OSS platform, that can deliver event management, performance management, integrated dashboards, topology, multi-tenancy, basic service level management and excellent scalability means that Monolith scores top marks.
2. Inventory of devices. A company’s network administrators need to know the company’s IT environment for efficient decision-making. This information should be readily available to key people, and easily accessible in each department. This means that a company can improve its resource management practices by keeping a current catalog of hardware.
Monolith software’s device catalog, coupled with its topology module goes a long way towards providing this information. These Monolith features show at a glance the inventory information, including the number and type of devices and their interfaces.
3. Reduce opportunities for trouble. Restricting user access and implementing version control helps prevent users from delving into areas better left unexplored and fixing configuration errors once they have been made.
Monolith’s comprehensive list of access permissions and built in ‘version control’ reduce the chances of user error and makes it easy to fix errors, by rolling back, once they have been made.
4. Implement an efficient OSS support system. Users will always need some technical support. Insufficient support is a leading complaint among NOC users. Efficient platform support will reduce the TCO and frustration at the same time.
By using Monolith as the single integrated OSS management platform within a company, means that the support team and end users need to be only trained on a single product, reducing TCO.
5. Minimize upgrades. Hardware and software upgrades are expensive. A company can save money by purchasing the power it needs upfront. Surprisingly, upgrading hardware and software often costs more than the initial purchase.
Again, by using Monolith as the sole OSS management platform, as opposed to having separate platforms for fault, performance, topology, service level management, the amount of software upgrades are reduced considerably.
6. Spread knowledge. The efficiency of the system increases proportionately with the knowledge of the staff. Users should be encouraged to understand the network environment and spread this knowledge.
Monolith’s in built knowledge base provides a searchable wiki server within the product. This knowledge base can be easily populated over time by the end users or information can be imported from other sources in bulk. In addition to this, Monolith’s integrated historical database will allow end users view the historical record of any alarm to see if a problem is a ‘one off’ or is the problem a recurring one.
So can Monolith really reduce TCO?
Companies around the world run the gamut of OSS platforms from virtually worthless to fairly cost-efficient systems. OSS platforms are continually being purchased and replaced. Till now there has been no single panacea for providing a fully integrated OSS platform and Monolith certainly has the opportunity to provide the antidote to TCO.