How Do You Monitor It? (continued..)
Part 1: The Basics of Network Alarm Monitoring
Part 2: What Do You Need to Monitor?
Part 3: How Do You Monitor It?
Part 4: How Do You Monitor It? (Continued..)
Part 5: How to Plan Your Alarm Monitoring Upgrade
[All 5 parts for easy printing]
Acquiring Alarm Data from Telecom and Transport Equipment
Unfortunately, there's no standard alarm output for switches, routers, SONET equipment and other telecom and transport gear. You'll have to check each type of transport equipment in your network to see what kind of alarms it supports.
The best way to find out what kind of alarming your equipment can do is to check the documentation supplied by the manufacturer. The documentation should have at least a short section describing the equipment's alarm outputs.
Ideally, your equipment will support some kind of protocol interface, giving you detailed visibility of its internal operations. But your equipment may only support contact closure outputs, which - depending on how many contact closures it has - may only give you a handful of summary alarms.
However, if your equipment doesn't have a documented protocol output, check it for a printer port, a report-only printer (ROP) port or a craft port. This port is designed to output a detailed log of equipment activity in the form of an ASCII text stream.
Historically, this ASCII output port was originally intended to connect to a printer for producing activity log printouts. A printout is a great way to keep a detailed record of what has happened in the past, but it's not a good way to monitor what's happening right now.
However, T/Mon provides a way to turn that ASCII stream into actionable, real-time alarm data. T/Mon's optional ASCII Processor Software Module can automatically capture ASCII text, extract important information from the text stream, and convert the text to a standard T/Mon alarm notification.
Acquiring Power, Facility, and Environmental Alarms
Power, facility and environmental alarms are collected by groups of individual sensors connected to site equipment like battery plants, generators, doors, temperature sensors and so on.
Outputs from these sensors are in turn connected to a remote telemetry unit (RTU) that converts contact closure and analog inputs into a protocol output, which is forwarded to your alarm presentation master.
Every model of RTU has a defined capacity of how many contact closure and analog inputs it supports. The alarm capacity of your RTU is the limiting factor for how much alarm information you can acquire from your remote site. You don't want an RTU that has too little alarm capacity, because that will give you only vague and incomplete information about the state of the remote site. On the other hand, you don't want to pay for unneeded alarm capacity, either.
Your remote site survey will help you determine the correct alarm capacity for each type of remote site in your network. It's also a good idea to look for an RTU whose alarm capacity can be easily upgraded. An RTU with expansion capability will grow with your remote site without your having to buy entirely new equipment.
Transport: Getting Your Alarms from the Site to Your Screen
Once alarm data collected at your remote sites, it needs to be transmitted over a data network to your alarm presentation master at your NOC. Alarm data can be sent over nearly any kind of data transport: Ethernet LAN/WAN, dial-up modem, dedicated circuit, overhead channel, etc.
There are two things you should keep in mind about alarm data transport:
As much as possible, you want to work with transports that are already available in your network. You don't want to create added expenses by committing yourself to installing new network infrastructure. It's best to choose an alarm system that's compatible with the transports you already have.
It's a good idea to have a secondary backup path for your alarm data in case your primary path fails. No transport is 100% reliable, and you don't want to lose alarm visibility of your revenue-generating network under any circumstances.
Presentation: Displaying Your Alarms in an Actionable Format
The final phase in alarm monitoring is presenting the alarm data in a useful way so that a human being can read the information and use it to direct repairs. This is done through a specialized computer called an alarm presentation master. The master collects the alarm reports from RTUs at the remote site and then formats, sorts and displays the information for a human operator.
The master is really the most important part of the entire alarm system. For the NOC technicians who monitor alarms and dispatch repairs, the master IS the alarm system - it's the only window they have to see what's going on in the network. The features and capabilities of your alarm master directly control how much useful information your NOC techs can see. A high-quality, full-featured alarm master gives you the tools to substantially lower your network maintenance costs.