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NEC 21SV Support Revives Chuck Wood's Legacy Remote Monitoring System

What do you do when you're building new sites and you can't get new RTUs? That was Cingular engineer Chuck Wood's problem when his NEC 21SV remotes were discontinued. Wood thought he faced a difficult choice between a forklift swapout of the NEC 21SVs or running two incompatible systems - but instead he found a DPS Telecom legacy support option.

Wood now has a T/MonXM WorkStation with a custom designed software module for polling NEC 21SV remotes. Legacy support enabled Wood to keep his NEC 21SV remotes in place, install NetGuardians at his new sites, and now he monitors all his alarms from TMon.

Problem: Wood Couldn't Buy New NEC 21SV Remotes

Wood was responsible for 350 cell sites in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire when NEC discontinued the 21SV remote and the 21GTX Fault Management System. (Wood now is in charge over 400 sites.) At each site, an NEC 21SV monitored microwave radios, MUXs, and environmental conditions.

Trying to maintain his remote monitoring system without vendor support gave Wood some serious problems:

  • No new remotes: We had more cell sites that needed remote alarm capabilities, and we couldn't buy 21SV remotes from NEC any longer, said Wood.
  • Equipment failures: I was having problems with breakdowns. I only had one spare hard master [a polling unit that mediates between the 21SV remote and the 21GTX master]. Then a hard master died, and I didn't have any more. If I lost another hard master, I'd be out of luck, said Wood.
  • No one could use the software: The one guy who knew how to change the database left the company. The master software ran on Unix, and I didn't have the Unix expertise to manipulate the database. I was getting backlogged with database changes I couldn't make, said Wood.

Two Bad Choices: Forklift Swapout or Incompatible Systems?

Wood's most urgent problem was finding a remote monitoring solution   for his new cell sites. It seemed he had to pick between two bad choices:

  • A forklift swapout of his existing legacy NEC 21SV remotes: "We never seriously considered getting rid of the 21SVs, because we didn't have the money to replace them. We had 350 sites buying a new remote for each of them would have been cost-prohibitive. We thought we might have to get rid of the 21SVs, but we wanted to avoid it, said Wood.
  • Running two separate systems: The alternative was keeping the NEC 21SVs for monitoring the old sites, and installing a separate system for monitoring the new sites. Running two systems was the least desirable option, except that it was one step better than replacing everything. It would be bad enough that our system operators would have to learn a new interface. We didn't want them to have to log into two different systems and maintain two databases as well, Wood said.

New System Dilemma: Scan Points and Limited Visibility, or SNMP Manager and Difficult Configuration?

Whether he replaced the NEC 21SVs or not, Wood had to install a new system to monitor his new cell sites. But selecting a new system also involved tough choices. His immediate options were:

  • Embedded scan points and poor network visibility: Wood could bring in alarms through his radio's embedded alarm system, but that meant summary alarms and limited visibility. There's 24 scan points on the Nokia system, and there's 26 alarms per radio. That's not enough points for a multiple radio site. You just get summary alarms that tell you there's a problem and you've got to go. The more information a tech has, the better he knows what he's up against, said Wood.
  • SNMP manager and difficult configuration: We were looking at using SNMP remotes reporting OpenView, but OpenView is complicated. In OpenView it's very hard to set up screens and alarms, and OpenView doesn't do paging by itself. It's very user-unfriendly, Wood said.

Solution: TMon Integrates Legacy 21SV Remotes with NetGuardian

Between those two choices, Wood decided to install SNMP remotes to report to OpenView. Wood consulted with DPS Telecom to evaluate the NetGuardian as an SNMP remote.

But as Wood became more familiar with DPS equipment, he discovered he had an opportunity to get better and easier monitoring of his new sites, and to integrate his NEC 21SV remotes on the same system.

TMon is more capable and easier than an SNMP manager

Wood decided that DPS's TMon Remote Alarm Monitoring System was a better platform for his monitoring needs than an off-the-shelf SNMP manager. At first we were looking at NetGuardians reporting to OpenView, but when we saw the capability and simplicity of TMon, we realized TMon would be easier to implement and we'd get better performance, said Wood.

Integrated support for Wood's existing NEC 21SV remotes

While Wood was evaluating TMon and the NetGuardian, DPS surprised him with an offer of polling support for his NEC 21SV remotes. "They told me they could develop a solution for polling NEC remotes for TMon. I wasn't really confident that it could be done, so I said, "Prove to me that it works, and I'll buy it, said Wood.

Results: NEC 21SV Support and TMon Capabilities

A year ago, Wood took delivery of his custom-developed solution, the 21SV Interrogator Software Module for TMon. This software module enables Wood's T/MonXM WorkStation to poll his NEC 21SV remotes in their native protocol. DPS also developed software for converting Wood's 21SV alarm database to TMon format, so no new database work was required.

Wood listed the benefits of his integrated solution:

  • Full support for his NEC 21SV remotes: "I've got support to run the 21SV remotes until they die. I'm continuing to use the 21SVs, but as they fail, I'm replacing them with NetGuardian," Wood said.
  • New NetGuardians for new sites: "As far as the NetGuardians go, I don't have any complaints with that system at all," said Wood.
  • Eliminated unreliable legacy hardware: "I've shut off my master NEC unit and the hard masters, and now I do everything with TMon," said Wood.
  • It's easier to work with the database: "I can easily manipulate the TMon database. It's dramatically easier than the NEC was," said Wood.
  • Simplified network and more reliable polling: "The polling from TMon is actually more reliable than it was from the NEC master, and it's much simpler. I used to need the NEC master, and then three separate hard masters for each leg. Now I just have the TMon, with three separate ports for each leg on the same box," said Wood.
  • Easy access to alarm information: "It's a big improvement that we can Web directly into the TMon. You couldn't Web into the NEC. From the technicians' perspective, a Web interface simplifies the job. They can get diagnostic information without having to worry about the alarm system. They can be at the site, look directly at the alarms. There's no delay. Everything's instantaneous," said Wood.

Want More Information About TMon Legacy Support Solutions?

Chuck Wood's custom solution, the 21SV Interrogator Software Module, is now available to all DPS clients. NEC 21SV support is just one of the many integration options available for TMon, which supports over 30 standard, legacy, and proprietary protocols. TMon can consolidate all your alarms from all your remote sites to one screen, eliminating the need for multiple specialized consoles.

Secure Your Network with the New IAM-6

If you want to protect your network against the dangers of service outages and equipment loss, check out the new IAM-6. It's 2-6 times faster than the IAM-5 and fully compatible with your existing IAM/TMonXM software and database.