Pipeline Publishing, Volume 3, Issue 11
This Month's Issue:
The Long Arm of Telecommunications Law
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Carrier Grade: The Myth and the Reality of Five Nines
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usually associated with carrier-class servers, while "6 nines" is usually associated with carrier-class switches.“ [Wikipedia] As software and servers now press for five-nines, network elements are expected to support six-nines.

QuEST & TL9000

The first step towards quality is agreeing to common standards and uniform ways of measuring something. In a recent interview with Richard Morrow, Director at the QuEST Forum Project at the University of Texas at Dallas, he told us: “When QuEST Forum started there were about 75 different ways of measuring on-time delivery.” [Which we note was larger than the number of participating companies.] “Now there is only one way to measure agreed to by all participants.”

QuEST Forum [www.questforum.org] is a membership-based trade group which acts as an extension to ISO 9000 for the domain of telecommunications. QuEST is about improving the telecommunications supply chain – specifically about the vendor-service provider relationship. Membership is open to vendors, service providers, and customers. Members of the Forum set the standards and create the TL 9000 specifications. There are two specifications: one covering requirements and another detailing the methods for measuring and reporting quality KPIs. Currently they are at Revision 4. But the main activity of QuEST (much like ISO 9000) is certifying organizations as continuing to meet the TL 9000 standards – about 900 organizations have active certifications. It is not necessary to be a member to apply for certification and being a member does not insure certification. Certification is arduous and involves a multi-day audit. The basic premise is that a service provider can trust that a certified organization will provide a product of known and consistent features because they conform to the TL9000.

ISO 9000 defines strong quality processes and the TL9000 incorporates all of ISO 9000 language, binding these expectations into their certification standard. But Morrow notes that: “Having processes does not mean you will do them, so the Forum is driving a general movement from emphasizing process documentation to emphasizing positive outcomes from processes.” The QuEST Forum does this through periodic certification audits and regular collection of data on actual performance to the expected goals.

A certified organization must provide regular measurements, as stated in the measurements handbook, to a central repository which is charted by QuEST, itself certified, and located at the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, TX. Feedback of network field experience from service


providers is critical to the vendors to improve their products. SOTS – Standard Outage Template System: provides the technology (web portal based) for collecting and reporting on these KPI. This is the quoted ‘single agreed standard’ and common technology for reporting field performance data from service providers to their vendors. When it started only six manual data submissions were made in a month; now more than 600 data submissions are made each day into the fully automated system. Certified contributors can get reports on this information and how they compare to the rest of the population of certified organizations – but otherwise the data is confidential and proprietary to the QuEST Forum. Even examples of these real-world quality metrics are not available to non-members.

While the telecommunications community builds automatic restoration and redundancy into network designs, in order to improve the service available of every network connection, we have seen that it is still important to have high standards for individual network elements and element modules. Indeed, understanding this, the TL9000 specifically excludes redundant systems restoration used in failover from the computation of an element’s down time.

Morrow: “What you do in reaction to the numbers is what counts. It is the impact of the equipment on the customer- essentially this is the customer pain - which is behind the measures. You will work to drive this down if you have industry-wide measurements to compare your performance to.”

TeleManagement Forum

Most of the SLA work at the TMF is mature and wrapped up. The SLA Handbook is one of the most widely distributed OSS standards. But the TMF never stops – and it has a current program which aims to do much the same thing as the data collection of the QuEST forum, except for OSS/BSS instead of the supply chain.

Business Transformation Benchmarking Program of the TeleManagement Forum provides a comprehensive and international database of service provider business performance metrics. The first round of metrics associated with service delivery and customer interactions is established and the project is moving forward to gather more results with an expanded base of metrics. Service providers who contribute data on their performance can see how they compare with their competitors and global ecosystem. The whole point is to allow Service Providers to identify internal areas which need

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