A Network Management System That Can Locate Lost Billings.
The corporation is well aware of the size of the challenge and is dedicating substantial resources to the constant efforts of Union Carbide communications managers to search out and develop new, more efficient systems to improve their telecommunications network.
The control center for Union Carbide's network, known as Unicom, is located in the company's headquarters discretely nestled in 600 acres of lush woods and manicured grounds on the Connecticut side of the New York state line. The impressive, almost futuristic-looking complex houses over 3,000 employees and serves as one of four nodes in a communications network encompassing 77 sites. Located primarily east of the Mississippi and in Texas, the network currently provides service to over 30,000 users.
ETN System Installed in 1980
In the spring of 1980, Union Carbide replaced an overburdened tandem network with the current ETN (electronic tandem network) system. In addition to achieving improved traffic-handling capabilities to meet growing needs, the new network system also yielded uniform dialing, along with an abundant amount of usage statistics.
Initially, the four nodes were equipped with tape drives on which to capture the usage data, in order to perform billing to the budget centers using the network. As typical problems involved with tape transport were encountered, this arrangement was soon recognized to be inadequate. The network management group estimated that as much as $650,000 in billings was being lost due to these probelms.
Network Syste Upgraded in 1981
In 1981, network management system was implemented using station message detail recording (SMDR) equipment manufactured by Com Dev of Sarasota, Florida. The individual PBXs were equipped with the vendor's STU (SMDR Translator Unit), a data-shortage device, and an SMDR multiplexer centralized polling system was installed at the headquarters in Danbury. The SMDR data from each PBX were stored in the translators until retrieved via a semi-automated polling process with the multiplexer, which stored the information on magnetic tape for later processing on Union Carbide's mainframe. It was quickly found that lost billings had been significantly underestimated. The actual figure was closer to $1.5 million.
This network management program was so successful that, three years later, Union Carbide enhanced the system's capabilities by replacing the multiplexer with an NP 9000 Network Poller, also manufactured by Com Dev. This replacement provided greater throughput, decreased line-holding time and provided fully automated operation, as well as master clock synchronization of the network data.
Poller Now Collects PBX Records
Currently, about 260,000 records per day are collected by the poller, resulting in approximately one million billlable records per month. As a result of tendeming call-record which are then combined through the data processing system into a single billing.
Each PBX site is polled once a day, while the nodes are polled twice a day. The information is processed on an IBM 3033. Bills are provided monthly to each location, or to a budget center within a location. The bills include individual station summaries and/or details, depending on the specific requirements of the budget center.
Traffic on Unicom is carried on a mixture of carriers' facilities, with usage being split about half-and-half between onnet and off-net calls. The leased facilities provide a PO5 grade of service from the end sites and basically non-blocking service through the nodes.
Overflow traffic is handled on a combination of WATS and FX (foreign exchange) facilities. This high-quality service is provided to its users at a savings of about 23 percent, compared to direct distance dialing. While specific quantitative goals were not placed on the management system, Tom DiBari, manager of voice network operations, reports that the enhanced system operation, reports that the enhanced system operation "has met our expectations" from a qualitative standpoint.
Other benefits Are also Provided
But helping to run an economical communications network was only the primary benefit of this call-accounting system. Some other benefits also materialized. In addition to being used for billing purposes, the tapes are periodically conveyed to the respective carriers for analysis. Results are used for redesign of facility configurations to meet changing needs.
An even more significant benefit of the system is its ability to aid in identifying network problems. The polling unit can perform a diagnostic poll of the translators, accessign a call-record search mode. This search mode makes it possible to track a call through the network, detailing which facility was used for each step in the switching process.
Bill Reichert, operations supervisor, explains a typical scenario: "A user call to report a case of trouble, like going high and dry, when dialing a specific number. Using the diagnostic poll and call-search ability, we can follow the call from its origin to the point where it failed, pin-pointing the trunk it was on at the time. We then contact the appropriate maintenance company (local telco or carrier) and can tell them exactly which circuit has the problem."
Corrective Action Now IS Speeded
In this fashion, problems are not only diagnosed quickly, but corrective action also is taken equally as fast. This capability was used extensively to resolve trouble occurring durin a conversion to new Tl facilities.
As the network expands and traffic increases, sites are added into the management system as soon as economic justification is verified. The translator unit's wide-ranging PBX compatibility allows Union Carbide's broad mix PBX types, including two Centrex systems, to be included in the telecommunications network without difficulty.
Cost-effective management and efficient diagnostics will provide a continuing quality grade of service and operational savings to support growth. That's the goal of network management, and at Union Carbide, management is continually striving to see that the goal is being reached.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 1985|
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