RTU Vs Equipment With Embedded Monitoring - 8 Critical Considerations Affecting Time, Money And Your Future

Twenty years ago if you wanted to monitor a site you would use a RTU to collect the alarms. Over time transport equipment manufacturers began to improve the internal monitoring of their equipment, but they also started exposing alarm points that would allow users to bring in critical & major alarms from other devices in the site. The basic premise was that you could add an "alarm card" to the transport and bring back the alarms to the same management platform that was monitoring the transport / switching equipment.

Over the last 6 years communications companies have been thinking twice about pursuing these "embedded" solutions in favor of independent external alarm collection devices. Here are the 8 reasons why:

  1. Core competency: Telecom is a specialized industry. OEM's are very good at their core competency, but alarming isn't their key focus. It is however the focus of DPS Telecom. The embedded solutions typically don't have functions like alarm qualification, alpha paging, local visibility and web browser interfaces. The proactive OEM's have realized this and rather than re-invent the wheel have integrated alarm remotes like the NetGuardian 832A into their designs.
  2. Embedded solutions typically have a relatively low amount of discrete alarms and are not scalable. This means that you either can't monitor everything you want to see, or have to "OR" so many alarms together, you don't know exactly what failed.
  3. Not all sites have the same type of equipment deployed that has monitoring, so those sites don't get monitored, or they have to be monitored by a non-standard way. Or you might find you have several different generations of embedded monitoring solutions, all with different capacities so you can't come up with a common standard.
  4. Embedded solutions typically don't support analog inputs. This means that you can't independently monitor any "value" that you are interested (i.e.: inside temp, outside temp, battery voltage, signal levels, etc).
  5. OEM solutions also don't support external controls. Controls allow you to remotely flip a relay to control some other device (i.e.: Reset a piece of equipment, open a door, start a generator, turn on a light).
  6. As more telecommunications companies evolve more sophisticated Network Operations Centers that monitor a multitude of different devices, it makes more sense for the alarms to report directly to the NOC in a common open protocol like SNMP. The ability of DPS RTU's to support multiple masters addresses today's need for comprehensive disaster recovery plans.
  7. Perhaps one of the more interesting reasons why embedded solutions are no longer in the best interest of a telecommunications company is because the trends that are taking placing in the industry and the underlying business models. Let's take a look at the Cellular industry. Competition is more fierce than ever. Clients are demanding more bandwidth and features. How do companies address this? They buy new equipment to differentiate themselves. While great for the provider's customers, it creates a multitude of problems / cost centers for the service provider. This is not a one time change, but a continuous repeating cycle.

    • Some vendors are dropping support for integrated alarming. In some cases this means that operators have to keep the old system operating for the sole purpose of keeping their alarm system alive. This wastes, energy, tech time, space and dollars.
    • Assuming your new transport gear does come with external monitoring functionality, you have several cost associated with it: First, the cost of the monitoring option. Second, the engineering & field tech time cost associated with cutting over the alarm termination to the new system. Keep in mind, all the alarms need to be tested again, documented and they may have to be re-databased on a new alarm master. Bottom line, avoiding unnecessary alarm cutovers saves time down the road for you techs, which can be put to much better uses.
    • During those alarming transitions, your "continuous" visibility may become impaired. You never want to lose alarm visibility, especially when you are in the middle of a major change.
  8. Communications path: Embedded solutions typically communicate using integrated signaling or some other overhead area. The upside of this is it is "Free", but the risk is that if you lose the site, you lose your telemetry so you don't have the complete picture of what is going on at the site and why. By using out of band communications path (not part of the system), you will be far less likely to lose visibility.

By deploying an external RTU, you address everything discussed. Not only will you get better site visibility on multiple fronts, you save lots of money by deploying alarm equipment once instead of every time your fundamental technology changes

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