Fiber & Outside Plant Software 101: What Is It & How Does It Work?


What exactly is fiber plant or outside plant software? As makers of the netTerrain IT visualization suite, which includes DCIM (data center infrastructure management), Logical (network diagrams and mapping), and OSP (outside plant software), we get our fair share of website visitors who want to know what outside (aka fiber plant) software is.

In this blog, I’ll go over the basics of what, exactly, outside plant software is…and how it works for our customers using our netTerrain OSP software.

Street view in netTerrain Outside Plant software

What is Outside Plant Software?
Ok, so let’s take a swing at this:

“fiber plant software is an intelligent system design built for the facilitation of creating an ecosystem to allow lay persons to design light transmitting systems and applications, yada, yada, yada…”

….if that isn’t a made up marketing sentence I don’t know what is!

Back to the question: what is fiber and outside plant software?

Here’s a simple answer that makes a lot more sense: fiber/outside plant software is far better than a spreadsheet for managing your fiber strands and outside plant assets!

If you manage fiber, chances are you do it in Excel. Fiber plant, aka outside plant, software is something built with more purpose than Excel. Now, don’t get me wrong: Excel is a great tool (or whatever spreadsheet tool you use). It’s great for a lot of things, but at some point in the history of your organization, you outgrow using spreadsheets to manage your fiber/outside plant and you need software.

For example, your company may have started out using Excel for tracking budgets, numbers, and accounting — and this works for a while as you are growing…but if all goes well and the company expands, at some point, you need something with a certain set of features, functionality, and integration.

Just as with the example of a company’s accounting needs outgrowing Excel, your fiber plant eventually outgrows Excel, too. Along comes fiber plant (outside plant) software…

How Does Outside Plant Software Work?
When you are managing a large quantity of strands, and they run all over your plant and splice to other strands, well, as you may well already be aware: Excel can get a bit difficult. Fiber plant software gives you actual tools that help manage strands but also the cables that house the strands: all different sizes, from just 6 strands up to 1k plus strands.

Splice box inside of manhole, in netTerrain Outside Plant software

You also need to consider more than just cables and strands: how about the ducts? With OSP software, you can track duct banks, and the paths they run down, such as: a street or across a campus or maybe even across 1000 miles of highway.

What about the conduits that gets pulled in the ducts? You may have a few conduits per ducts — as well as the cables into the ducts. You can track those.

Track & map conduits between two manholes, as shown in this example of netTerrain Outside Plant software

Of course, you may not have to manage all of this (and/or you may not even want to). Maybe you only need to know about conduits and cables…generally speaking, the decision on what you track in the software is left up to you — at least with netTerrain OSP, it won’t make you track everything and the kitchen sink if you don’t need/want to.

So, what else can you do using fiber plant/outside plant software?

You can depict and track items that represent physical end locations or where splices may occur, such as buildings and manholes (or ‘pits’ if you are from other parts of the world). You can show these items as they are geographically located on a map: latitude and longitude is always a nice way to place these items as well. Then we also have termination points for the cables and strands.

Outside plant (fiber plant) software exists to help you to better track all of these items. Once you have information in these systems, you can start to get information about the fiber plant. For instance, how many strands do you have in use or what strands are not in use that can be used?

Some systems, such as netTerrain, can calculate a path based on available strands and also find redundant paths.

Bottomline? Fiber plant, or outside plant, software is a way to manage your fiber strands and outside plant assets that’s far better than trying to use a spreadsheet and works for all industries. With good outside plant software, you can track 6 strands or 1,000, conduits, ducts, termination points, splices, buildings, manholes, and so on. If you have a question about outside plant software, we’re here to help. Give us a shout or sign up for a demo (or send a carrier pigeon, we like getting those).

Jason Sherman
Jason Sherman
As Graphical Networks’ Sales Engineering and Support Services Manager, Jason Sherman leads the pre and post sales cycle with the entire Graphical Networks software portfolio, and ensures current customers are able to use the software to its fullest potential.

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