17 Mar Using database solutions to improve FTTH network design
Paulo Sá Ferreira | 17/3/2020
“Integrated” and “collaborative” are the new trending concepts of FTTH network design. Engineering of fiber networks has undergone a massive transformation since the digital design solutions approached the market a decade ago. It’s not that long back that network engineers were drawing their designs with a pencil and sheet of paper. The evolution (or rather revolution?) of network design tools, however, brought up new opportunities that contributed to unprecedented, precise, yet cost-efficient network planning. Embedded into collaborative and dynamic working environments, that make the most of online data sharing and use of cloud databases.
However, are we really using these new solutions to their full potential? In this article, I will elaborate on why cloud solutions and use of databases in all stages of the project cycle are the way forward for contemporary network design engineering.
One of the major plus points of working with a database, is the possibility to simulate all network layers in one place – physical, logical, geographical – together with all their elements and mutual relationships. We can simulate all active equipment as well as passive elements (e.g. cables, joints, links between them). Beyond this active layer, we can go even deeper to create circuits, all related to the physical network and associate services, as well as assign clients, amongst other uncountable ways to fine-tune the model. dwg. files in comparison to a database, are not much more than lines and blocks connected by geometry with limited information available. GIS shp. Files, on the other hand, may provide richer content and information, however, their potential is limited, due to the lack of sharing among multiple viewers.
This asset of database use is further empowered by the possibility of remote access. All information is available in a single view for every user, regardless of their location. This allows companies and teams around the world to work alongside each other in their assigned tasks, share the latest information and cooperate effectively. The connection is easily established also to the workers in the field with whom engineers can exchange real-time information and, hence, speed up the delivery process. Further, live, direct and remote access also allows a supplier to provide its customers with an easy insight into the latest version of the network design, empowering trust, reliability and satisfaction in the customer.
Another strong advantage of network design built in a database – one that will be mainly appreciated by engineers – is the control of versions. Without an effective internal organization system, the version control can result in chaos, causing engineers to work with outdated versions of a project or, even worse, providing a customer with an incorrect version of their design. Databases are a great help in this aspect, as all the data is centralized in one place with a comprehensive and transparent version history.
Fast connection to the network
Lastly, databases help us speed up the process from the initial design to the final connection of a customer. Every operator´s major concern is to get the customers connected to the network as soon as possible. This is often obstructed by slow finalization of all parts of a network design, including as-built design and revisions of the network. Thanks to the database solution, design and construction can walk along hand in hand, uploading the latest changes to the network and thus connecting a customer to the service as soon as the cable crosses their doorstep.
All of the inventory systems use databases to achieve this. However, often the data are loaded and updated into those systems manually. Data migration can be a solution to these struggles, in order to speed up the process and avoid human error. The ease of migrating between Databases, as opposed to manually inputting data, is further emphasized in the as-built phase, which will require less effort, increased quality and cost savings as a result. Beyond that, there is always the, much less explored, possibility to create API to integrate this system into the inventory and design DB.
Databases have great potential in contributing to more efficient network engineering. However, obstacles in realizing their full potential still need to be overcome. In order to fully benefit from them, we need to encourage and empower all stakeholders to embrace and adapt to the digital revolution. If we are able to overcome these barriers, the migration to a fully digital process can be accomplished. In turn, a smoother more efficient way of working can be fully realized with the emphasis on effective collaboration.