Our OSP software module, netTerrain OSP, seems to pop-up in discussions with our current netTerrain users quite a bit lately, maybe because it is still relatively new (it is only 4 or 5 years old versus netTerrain’s network and DCIM features, which have been around for over a decade now). Because we’ve been fielding quite a few questions around if OSP will help current netTerrain users, a post that addresses the question, “do I really need Outside Plant software” seems to be in order.
First, a 10-second overview…netTerrain is a comprehensive software package that addresses three key aspects of IT visualization and troubleshooting:
- It helps network managers and admins discover and map the network to generate a comprehensive network documentation repository
- It is used by Data Center professionals for Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) functions such as floor plan, rack and cabling inventory, data center and environmental monitoring
- It is used by outside plant (OSP) technicians for their fiber, copper or wireless design and layout
…three functions – one mission.
We’ve found that quite a few customers that have netTerrain for their network mapping needs or for Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) are only now finding out about Outside Plant (OSP) capabilities.
Aside from the fact that we should be better at telling our own customers about the other ways netTerrain can help document the network, it’s interesting how intertwined the above three functions are. On the surface, it may seem that these DCIM, Network, and OSP management are somewhat siloed, however: we have plenty of customers that need to combine network documentation and outside plant documentation.
After all, it’s all part of one broader mission: to have a comprehensive IT visualization platform for your physical, logical and virtual infrastructure that supports the business.
OSP nice-to-haves vs must-haves
If you are a netTerrain customer (or prospect) and are looking into our netTerrain OSP module, I would obviously like to welcome you as a new netTerrain OSP user — but not if it ends up as shelfware just decorating your cubicle or office.
Sometimes I get the feeling that users test out some of the features that come with netTerrain OSP and love the maps and all the bling, but forget that the software is, first and foremost, about removing pain from your day-to-day operations and not adding to it. I have, in fact, discouraged customers from upgrading to netTerrain OSP when the actual value is marginal and just a nice-to-have. Yes, we are a for-profit business, but if netTerrain ends up unused, you won’t become a raving fan and that doesn’t do anybody any good.
So what are the nice-to-haves versus must-haves?
For starters, there is the mapping technology. We use Open Street Maps for creating beautiful GIS-enabled diagrams with all sorts of navigation capabilities to place objects perfectly, down to 5+ lat/long decimal ranges. You may need those maps to trace fiber down to the block and street level to know where to send somebody if there is a fiber cut. That is useful and removes pain from your day-to-day operation by shortening the design and troubleshooting times.
Or maybe you just like how those icons look on top of a map. That’s just bling. If all you want is pretty pictures and you are not going to zoom in deep enough into the map for useful reasons, don’t buy netTerrain OSP. In fact, you get those mapping capabilities without netTerrain OSP: just place a static background on your diagram and you are done. This is a standard feature in any netTerrain version.
netTerrain OSP also has some nifty strand and circuit mapping and automated layout capabilities as well as automatic fiber circuit routing tools. Sometimes we get customers that like how this works in the demo and think they may need it in the future.
But that’s kinda like buying that super fancy lawnmower tractor for a 1,800 square foot front yard. We don’t penalize you for upgrading netTerrain later: start with what you need now, solve your current pain points, and upgrade later when strand and circuit management really are causing pain. In other words, buy the tractor once you move to a house with a 2-acre yard.
Quick netTerrain OSP checklist
Do you need OSP software? We tell our prospects to get netTerrain OSP if they need two or more of the following functions to solve pressing issues now:
- View objects on GIS-enabled, possibly down to street level
- Manage fiber cables down to the strand level, possibly color-coded based on TIA standards
- Visualize duct banks, manholes, conduits and other outside plant elements and bundle micro ducts and cables inside them
- Manage circuit routes through fiber cables and strands
- Automatically provision diverse or redundant circuits through multiple hops and view their layout diagrams
Bottomline: do you need OSP software? It depends.
Of course, if you really insist we’ll still take your hard-earned money give you netTerrain OSP (and then bug you forever to actually start using it…), but maybe it’s just better for you to first review this checklist to get an idea of your true outside plant software needs.