One of the most common debates related to network management is:

Element Managers  vs. Network Management Platforms

This is an issue that puzzles Network Equipment Manufacturers, but it is a common dilemma for Service Providers and Network Operators as well. Why? Read below to understand.

The Equipment Manufacturer Problem

Most Network Equipment Manufacturers (NEMs) face at some point difficult decisions related to Element Managers (EMS).

NEMs know that they have to provide an Element Manager with every device they create, but their focus is the device, not the EMS. Therefore, as NEMs try to minimise the money spent developing EMS systems, they soon realise that it is not cost efficient to build an EMS from scratch for each new device.

The usual (and logical) next step is to consider developing a management platform to be re-used for all their devices. The problem with this strategy is the investment required to build network management competence and the time and money required to develop this type of advanced software.

This is how Network Equipment Manufacturers describe this problem:

“Should I build an Element Manager from scratch to manage the device I am developing? I do not have the resources nor the competence to do so.”
Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Start-up Equipment Manufacturer
“I have built a couple of Element Managers before, but do I have to repeat that for every device I develop? This is not efficient! “
R&D Head, Tier-2 Equipment Manufacturer
“I have built a management platform in the past, but it has already become legacy and it is far from best-of-breed. Do I really need to re-invest and develop another one?”
Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Tier-1 Equipment Manufacturer


The Service Provider Problem

Network Operators and Service Provides face similar difficult dilemmas. They usually purchase equipment from more than one manufacturers in order to achieve best prices and they end up with more than one Element Managers (EMS) to manage the same technological domain. For example, they may end up with two or more vendors and therefore EMS systems for their transmission network.

So the dilemma that Service Providers and Network Operators face is:

“Using all these multiple Element Managers that the manufacturers provide me, is not efficient nor cost effective. What I really need is to manage all my devices in a unified manner from a single software”
Network Manager, Tier-1 Service Provider


The Solution is a Network Management Platform

A network management platform is a framework that has many uses.

Network Equipment Manufacturers can use a network management platform to build custom Element and Network Management (EMS / NMS) applications. They can create this way an EMS per device, or even a unified Manager for all their devices.

Network Operators and Service Providers can also use a network management platform to create with the help of a System Integrator a single unified network management solution for all the devices in their network.

A network management platform is an attractive option because it makes it possible to deliver superior management solutions in a cost-effective, low-risk, and high-productivity model.

Is developing a network management platform really an option?

Building a network management framework or platform is a complex job that requires dedication, focus and competence.

Multimillion investment is required to develop an advanced management platform and the timeframe may as well exceed that of 24 months. Even so, success can not be guaranteed. What is required is not only money and time, but also a highly experienced team in both network management and system software development.

It is therefore obvious that Network Equipment Manufacturers should research for a 3rd party platform to customise and re-use, provided that the platform allows re-branding.

Service Providers also should select a flexible network management platform, that with the help of a System Integrator will be customised to manage in a unified manner all the devices in their network.


How to select a network management platform

Selecting a network management platform is not only about comparing features. Before deciding the way forward, many aspects needs to be analyzed and quantified, such as time-to-market, capital expenses, operating expenses, efficiency and innovation. The questions (criteria) that must be answered can be summarized as follows:

  • Which platform is faster to implement? (time-to-market)
  • How much will it cost to create the solution? (capital expenses -CAPEX)
  • How much will it cost to operate the solution, including maintenance, support and training costs? (operational expenses – OPEX)
  • Which solution will allow the creation of a competitive, innovative solution that will win customers and therefore bring revenue?

The above questions are not equally important for every case, as explained below.

What are the Network Equipment Manufacturers needs?

Network Equipment Manufacturers (NEMs) need to have an Element Management (EMS) solution available when they release their devices. This time-to-market requirement is important, in order to succeed. NEMs also need to keep the EMS development cost low, in order to be able to place a competitive price tag to the bundle consisting of devices and EMS. The operational costs of the EMS are not important for them, but innovation typically is, i.e. competitive features that can be marketed. The tablee below summarises the Network Equipment Manufacturer needs.

Equipment Manufacturer Needs Importance Weight
Time to Market Critical 50%
Capital Expenses Very Important 25%
Operational Expenses Not important 0%
Competitive Features, Innovation Very Important 25%
All Items Total: 100%


A NEM may consider re-using an existing Network Management platform or framework and by developing device drivers or adapters for his own devices, to establish an Integrated Element Management (EMS) platform.

NEMs prefer to develop the device driver(s) or adapters by themselves in order to control the time plan of the development but also to control the management features to be implemented.

Different NEMs target different customer segments with different requirements. For example, an Equipment Manufacturer targeting customers in the military / governmental domain may have advanced security requirements that must be taken into account which may not be required in the Service Provider domain.

What are the Service Providers needs?

Service Providers need a unified Management solution. Time-to-market requirement is important, but not critical. They care about the operational costs (minimising them) but are willing to pay to create a state-of-the-art solution, i.e. capital expenses are not the critical decision point. Competitive features and innovation is critical for them, in order to compete succesfuly.

Service Provider Needs Importance Weight
Time to Market Important 15%
Capital Expenses Important 15%
Operational Expenses Very important 30%
Competitive Features, Innovation Critical 40%
All Items Total: 100%


A Network Operator or Service Provider may consider using a Network Management platform or framework and by developing device drivers or adapters, to establish an Unified Management platform for all the devices of a technology domain or even all devices in his network.

Unlike Equipment Manufacturers, Network Operators prefer to outsource the development of the device driver(s) or adapters to System Integrators in order to focus on what they do best, i.e. operating the network.

A System Integrator is typically used not only to develop all the device drivers required but also to provide training, support and generally maintain the solution.


Best Practices in Network Management Platform Projects

In case you decide to use a network management platform, here are some best practices that will help you minimize costs and increase chances of success.

  • Proof of Concept : It is recommended to define an initial phase in a network management platform project to be used as proof of concept in order to minimise risks and surprises. During this “rapid integration” phase, as it is sometimes called, a device driver for one product of the Equipment Manufacturer or Service Provider is developed. This helps all parties to identify risks, requirements, cons and pros for using the particular management platform.
  • Outsourcing: This is about assigning the Proof of Concept i.e. development of a device driver for one product of the Equipment Manufacturer to an external party. The external party can be the network management platform vendor or a system integrator and this helps to minimise the upfront commitment and cost.
  • Consultation: Selecting a Network Management Platform can be tricky. How do you know that the selection criteria defined are correct  and complete and that the selected network management platform will cover current AND future needs? This can be done only by experts, and this is why it is highly recommended to use Consulting Services for such a project.