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New technologies for better network management

The EUREKA-funded CELTIC MADEIRA project, winner of the 2008 CELTIC Excellence Award, has successfully applied new ways to manage large telecommunications networks using a web-based interface.

The term 'network management' refers to the operation, administration, maintenance, and provisioning of networked computer systems. This means keeping the network up and running smoothly, keeping track of resources and performing repairs and upgrades. Today's management systems can struggle to cope with the enormous amounts of information being created and exchanged in large networks, for example in the telecommunications sector, which delivers services on a continual 24x7 basis.

Partners in the CELTIC MADEIRA project carried out research in the area of large-scale telecommunications networks, developing new technologies for an advanced Network Management System (NMS).

Increasing demands
According to project coordinator Liam Fallon of Ericsson Ireland, network operators have to provide high quality services under conditions of vastly increased numbers and technological diversity of network elements, e.g. individual computer terminals. MADEIRA's main aim was to facilitate the deployment of self managed services, enabling better, more seamless management of this kind of very large and diverse network.

MADEIRA focused on developing an innovative platform enabling network management from a central computer as well as from distributed elements like individual computers in a co-operative manner.

"There were two main achievements in the MADEIRA project," says Fallon. "The first achievement was that the project gave the participants the opportunity to try out ways of applying distributed secure network management to real telecommunication scenarios.

"The second achievement was that project participants actually set up and worked with the management system, with running applications and a web-based interface to communicate with the outside world."

Important developments
To do all this, Fallon explains, the project built a prototype management system that uses peer-to-peer technology (where two or more PCs are connected and share resources without going through a separate server computer, a system used in services such as Skype) enabling the network to configure itself. The prototype was distributed over labs in Ireland, Austria, Spain, and Sweden, he says.

MADEIRA comprised a consortium of six organisations, each highly competent in aspects of networks, network services and associated management. Project work packages addressed network architecture, platform technology, self-aware management, and data modelling and management.

The project also included the development of prototype applications to test and demonstrate the envisaged concepts. The result is an innovative and advanced system enabling adaptable services and management of network elements of increasing scale, heterogeneity and transience.

MADEIRA partners say the results could also mean reduced operating expenses, because an increasingly self-aware, machine-to-machine-based network requires fewer skilled human operators.

EUREKA CELTIC helps make it happen
MADEIRA was funded under CELTIC, a EUREKA cluster programme, supported by most of the major European players in communication technologies. CELTIC's main goal is to maintain European competitiveness in telecommunications through collaborative R&D. Projects are characterised by a holistic approach to telecoms networks, applications, and services.

CELTIC organisers say the MADEIRA project achieved good results in the application of autonomous network management to real telecommunication scenarios, and that's why they awarded it the 2008 CELTIC Excellence Award last February.

"Doing research for EUREKA CELTIC was very beneficial," says Fallon. "Working collaboratively on 'pre-competitive research' gives companies access to additional knowledge as well as the opportunity to influence the direction of future technology."

Fallon says knowledge gained in MADEIRA will guide his company's submissions on network management to standardisation bodies such as 3GPP SA5 and the NGMN. Ericsson is also investigating the applicability of MADEIRA results to other networks under the BANITS II project.

Shar McKenzie | alfa
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