TL1: The Land that Time Forgot

March 6th, 2020 by · Leave a Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by Sally Hudson, Chief Marketing Officer at VCTI

We human beings are, for the most part, naturally optimistic and forward-looking.  For those of us in the technology industry, our confidence in the next new big thing to propel us further, faster, is unshakable. In my industry, telecommunications, Digital Transformation is our holy grail, with the power of big data, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation deployed in shiny new platforms to turn all our customer experience woes into brand bonding experiences, with accompanying growth in revenue and shareholder value.

It’s no wonder that the role of Chief Transformation Officer may well be the most strategically important of all the new titles that have emerged in recent years, as well as the most complex.

But as much as we focus on the power of the new technology to transform our business, any service provider that is more than 20 years old is still limited by the legacy of old equipment, systems, and devices embedded throughout our networks. They are challenged daily by the need to limit operational expenditures and still run the network efficiently without disruption of user experience.

Transaction Language 1, “TL1”, was invented by the Bellcore (now Ericsson) in 1984, originally as a breakthrough management protocol that could be read by machines and humans, to enable a common and easier communication between the service provider OSS and the network elements of the various vendor devices in North American access networks. TL1 quickly grew to become the global standard as all the big names in the hardware industry adopted the protocol

Despite the acceleration of machine to machine communications, open standards for APIs, and artificial intelligence over the past two decades, hundreds of thousands of TL1 managed devices still live on in service provider networks globally, old war horses diligently managing the network. It is estimated that it will be at least another decade or two before the last of them is put out to pasture.

That leaves service providers and enterprises caught in an ironic conundrum. The very networks that are enabling digital transformation are themselves populated with thousands of pockets of pre-IP devices managing services.

Network operators charged with managing TL1 devices talk about “silent death”, when a TL1 probe loses communication with a device and there’s an outage with no alarm. The support team is whipsawed managing a myriad of TL1 devices, each with individual unique login sequences and command sequence, plus the ability to have only a few sessions open at a time. Time to troubleshoot issues is compounded, sucking the life out of the support team.

Costs are driven up by unnecessary truck rolls, having to resort to sending out a technician when a probe is hung up by the failure of a technician to release the session or simply not having any insight into activity on the device.

Managers need intelligence to manage the productivity of their TL1 technicians. They require audit trails, logging of activity, insight into individual skills, and the ability to identify a bad actor.  A path to automation so that these old war horses are engaged is the bridge to digital transformation, as opposed to a barrier, is critical.

Given how much is riding on these old war horses, it’s critical that service providers actively inspect and assess their risk.

Here are seven critical data points that need to be identified to manage your TL1 devices effectively:

  1. How many outages are caused by devices that are managed using TL1?
  2. What is the average duration of the outages?
  3. How many resources were involved in the resolution?
  4. How many TL1 probes are in the network?
  5. How frequently do the TL1 probes need resetting?
  6. How many technicians are actively working with TL1 devices daily?
  7. How many truck rolls are triggered because there is no connectivity to a TL1 device?
  8. How are TL1 events fed into fault managers, and can you identify the network element associated with the alarm in the fault manager?

To ensure compliance with security policies, a complete audit trail must be documented. Secure login that automatically captures and logs every step of any procedure will bring accountability and governance to the support of these legacy systems.

Understanding these risks is the first step to managing them and protecting the quality of services your customers receive.  With visibility into TL1 devices, network operators will be able to troubleshoot issues better, simplify network operations, and optimize performance of legacy systems. TL1 devices become part of the future rather than the land that time forgot.

Sally Hudson serves as chief marketing officer at VCTI, a world-class provider of software products and technical expertise for communications services providers and the equipment vendors embedded in their networks.

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Categories: Industry Viewpoint · Software · Telecom Equipment

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