October 25, 2009

Cramer Systems

Cramers System Group Ltd.
Type Private (subsidiary of Amdocs)
Genre OSS systems for telecom providers
Founded England, 1996
Founder(s) Jon Craton, Don Gibson
Headquarters Bath, (Technology Centre), England
Industry telecommunications
Products OSS systems
Services software development and consultancy
Owner(s) Amdocs
Website Amdocs Cramer

Cramer Systems, founded in 1996 by Jon Craton and Don Gibson develop operating support systems OSS systems for the telecommunication industry (telco's like Vodafone, KPN Telecom, BT. In August 2006 Amdocs announced the completion of the acquisition of the company[1]. The products developed by Cramer are now an integral part of the Amdocs product suite. The potential customer base of their products is relative small: only the larger communication providers with large networks (cables and equipment) will consider implementing a system such as Cramer Systems have developed. The latest product, now also known as Amdocs OSS suite 6, Cramer 6, is a suite of applications built around the core application: the Resource Manager. Further development will probably only be extensions of this version and not a complete redesign of the core. The steps made from version 4 to 6 are huge as the latest mentioned version is completely written from scratch in Java. With the Resource Manager telco's can administer all their assets related to their network. This includes equipment like switches, routers, SDH and PDH nodes, CPEs etc, but also cables, buildings, rooms, cabinets etc.

Depending on the setup of the product (and requirements and wishes of the operator) the registration of the 'resources' can be detailed, very detailed or extremely detailed - depending on what the operator wishes to do with their suite. Originally the system was developed to administer telecom systems as SDH and PDH networks (circuit based networks). Via the resource manager operators could make a complete representation of their complete network up to the individual interfaces on the cards/modules in cabinets - located in rooms in buildings etc. It is a very large operation to get all that information of an existing network in a (database) system as Resource Manager. And as the requirements of each customer are different and the number of possible equipment and related assets are very large each installation of the system has to be different. The key feature of the product is that the applications are 'service aware': they do not only administer what equipment is installed, the system knows what each system, module, card, interface or cable can do, which circuits or connections are configured on the network and which services use these connections.

In the earlier versions only circuit based networks could be administered, but more recent versions can also handle connection-less networks as ATM and IP-based networks.

Options of the suite include applications as Route Finder: the user points out the endpoints and requirements of a connection and the system will find out how the connection can be created through the network based on its knowledge of all available equipment, their capacity and current (and planned) usage. Although complex, this functionality is quite straightforward in hierarchical network structures - but far more difficult in connectionless networks such as IP based networks. Network operators using this software need to make strict guidelines to prevent mismatches between the information in the inventory system and the live network. Interfaces between the Cramer software and the (other) network management tools in use and create working processes where the system with the most complete information about all networks is always leading. If data integrity is guaranteed systems like Cramer and comparable applications can streamline all processes and make efficient use of resources possible, but realizing that goal takes a lot of time, effort and money.

As said: the Cramer suite is built around the Resource Manager, which is really a set of databases and specialized user interface specialized for storing, retrieving and displaying information about networks. In most cases the RM uses a (often dedicated) Oracle database: not only the 'resources' are stored in databases (such as the equipment, modules, cards, interfaces, cables, cpe's etc) but also the data describing the features of equipment, data specifying business processes, rules to calculate capacity and usage, hierarchical dependencies between cables, equipment, circuits/connections and services and service data such as: what type of connection is needed for a specific service, if and what sort of protection is required to overcome problems in networks (eg. for a leased line configuring two routes through the network using different cables via different routes that is fully reserved for that one leased line, or leased lines with a -separately routed- back up route that might be used by others unless this leased line needs it when the main route is broken).

The latest two versions of the OSS suite uses Java as middleware plafform for the GUI and some interfaces or adapters between the suite and external systems.

Although Cramer has been acquired by Amdocs in August 2006 the development of their products continues and is still based at their technology center in Bath, England. They continue to exist, but now as the OSS department of the much larger BSS developer Amdocs

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