Within the complicated world of software architecture, one pattern stands out as an efficient solution: the umbrella system architectural pattern. This strategy empowers the management of multifaceted ecosystems of applications, services and components. The Umbrella Architectural Pattern is crucial for consolidating a telecom company’s Operations Support System (OSS). It reduces costs and enables time-efficient management of networks, processes and technologies, while facilitating steady business growth.
Read on to understand the essence of the umbrella pattern, explore its real-world applications with detailed examples, discover scenarios where it thrives and learn how to navigate the challenges and opportunities inherent in its implementation.
What is the Umbrella Architectural Pattern?
Imagine an architectural approach that harnesses a central control hub to manage the diverse elements of a complex IT ecosystem. The umbrella system is precisely that. This pattern is widely adopted by experienced telecom software development teams to optimize a system’s manageability, scalability, maintenance and integration, thereby ensuring a robust foundation for modern software systems.
Key characteristics of the Umbrella Pattern:
- Centralization: The crux of the umbrella pattern is the establishment of a centralized point of control. This orchestrating core, which oversees and manages the various components of the system, ensures coherence.
- Modularity: While centralization is critical, the system is strategically divided into modules or subsystems. Each module can have specialized functions or services, which enables efficient management.
- Scalability: By modularizing components and enabling centralized management, the umbrella pattern seamlessly scales individual parts to adapt to varying loads and demands.
- Maintenance and Updates: Centralized control simplifies the upkeep process and reduces the risk of inconsistencies, by ensuring consistent updates, patches and maintenance procedures.
- Integration: The umbrella pattern facilitates integration, as different components seamlessly collaborate through a common management point, thereby fostering data exchanges and synergy between modules.
- Orchestration: The umbrella pattern extends beyond aggregation and emphasizes the decomposition and distribution of events or actions from a central location to subsystems under the “umbrella.”
Examples of Umbrella-Based Systems in telecommunications:
- Telecommunication Network Monitoring Systems: Within the telecommunications domain, an umbrella system centralizes the monitoring and management of network infrastructures. This architecture streamlines the monitoring of network health, traffic patterns and performance metrics. By gaining real-time insights into network status, operators can promptly detect and address issues. Furthermore, anomaly detection algorithms can analyze data across various modules to identify unusual patterns, which enhances the overall stability of a network.
Figure 1: Example components diagram of the Telecommunication Network Monitoring System.
- Telecommunication Provisioning Systems: Telecommunication operators rely on provisioning systems to allocate resources such as bandwidth and services. An umbrella pattern transforms these provisioning systems into a cohesive unit that ensures efficient allocation and utilization of resources. For instance, when a new service is provisioned, an umbrella system can dynamically allocate the necessary resources and prevent overutilization or underutilization.
Figure 2: Example components diagram of the Telecommunication Provisioning System.
- Integrated Physical Building Security System: In security protocols, an umbrella system seamlessly integrates various physical security components (e.g., cameras, access control systems, alarms and sensors) under a single overarching management entity. This consolidated approach empowers security personnel to monitor and respond to incidents in a coordinated manner. When an alarm is activated, an umbrella system can trigger video feeds from relevant cameras, offer real-time situational awareness and automate security protocols.
When should an umbrella pattern be employed?
The umbrella pattern excels in scenarios where system complexity demands a holistic approach to management. This pattern is particularly advantageous when there’s a need for central control, modularized components and smooth integration across diverse subsystems.
The main reason for applying the umbrella architectural pattern was often the result of a reluctance or inability to purchase network equipment from a single manufacturer and the challenges associated with the development of telecommunications network technology. When the industry had not yet transitioned to 4G or 5G generation, operators had implemented 2G and 3G network equipment from two different manufacturers. Along with thousands of devices, these manufacturers provided comprehensive solutions for building and maintaining the operation of the whole telecommunications network, including a subsystem for monitoring (NMS – Network Monitoring System). Since there were only two manufacturers, the operator had two independent systems. To monitor everything in one place, an operator needed to complete the difficult task of integrating one NMS into a second NMS.
However, in the subsequent years, as technology evolved with the introduction of 4G and later 5G generations and other services built on optical networks, several types of devices from various manufacturers emerged, along with additional independent network monitoring systems. The daunting challenge was to integrate these systems into one from a previously selected manufacturer. The umbrella system architectural pattern was a good fit at this time, as an operator could build a unified data model that didn’t have to align with any of the manufacturer-specific models. It was possible to create a central system for managing network events and alarms, with a single GUI and operational processes tailored perfectly to an operator’s needs. Additionally, separate adapters were prepared for each NMS, allowing translation from the manufacturer’s model to the operator’s data model, as well as the appropriate technological adaptation (SNMP traps, HTTP, REST, streams, APIs), along with the selection of the fitting integration pattern (broadcast listening, event-driven, periodic polling, event subscription).
It’s essential to note that NMS systems involve bidirectional communication. For example, when clearing or deferring an alarm, the necessary information should also be sent to the manufacturer’s NMS system, which is covered by the Umbrella NMS. As a result, the umbrella architectural pattern was primarily born out of the lack of the option to select a single manufacturer and the desire to become independent from a single manufacturer in the telecommunications industry.
Challenges and opportunities in implementing an umbrella pattern
- Commonality Conundrum: Establishing a common foundation for systems under an umbrella can be demanding, as it involves defining shared data models, standard events and actions.
- Integration Complexity: Integrating existing systems into an umbrella structure may present hurdles. You must carefully plan APIs and integration methods to ensure smooth collaboration.
- Extended Functionality: While umbrella systems offer enhanced functionality, extracting and utilizing this functionality effectively can be complex. It demands a deep understanding of a system’s capabilities.
- Enhanced Insights: Centralized monitoring provides comprehensive insights into the entire system, while enabling proactive maintenance and swift issue resolution.
- Streamlined Management: Simplifying management procedures and reducing the complexity of handling a multitude of separate components facilitates oversight.
- Flexibility: Scalability and modularity enable swift adaptation to changing demands, making the umbrella pattern ideal for dynamic environments.
- Efficient Integration: Accelerating the integration of diverse components leads to reduced integration efforts and enhanced collaboration.
- Synergy of Data: Centralizing data analytics and machine learning algorithms to work on consolidated data sets provides more accurate insights.
An umbrella architectural pattern will elevate your OSS
The global telecom services market reached $1.8 trillion USD in 2022 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.2% from 2023 to 2030. The market is driven by an increasing number of mobile subscribers, high-speed data connectivity demand and expectations for value-added managed services. Evaluating the world of telecommunications, from network monitoring to provisioning systems and integrated security, makes the practical impact of an umbrella pattern clear. While its implementation entails challenges, the resulting benefits – ranging from streamlined management to enhanced insights – solidify its value in modern software systems.
If you’re interested in embracing the umbrella pattern to foster a robust foundation for innovation and efficiency, use the contact form to talk to our experts.
About the authorŁukasz Gałczyński
A business analyst with several years of experience in the telecommunications field, Łukasz understands the dynamic nature of the telecom industry. His technical background, combined with project management and data analysis skills, enables him to provide evaluations that reflect business needs and technological possibilities. A role-playing game (RPG) enthusiast, Łukasz is keenly interested in the increasing importance of new technologies, especially cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
About the authorWojciech Kozak
Software Delivery Director
A Software Delivery Director with over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry who has spent the past 15 years working with the largest Polish TELCO Operators. Wojtek combines a technical background in application development services with wide business knowledge, especially in regards to the telecommunication industry. His extensive experience and passion enable him to effectively manage development teams that implement ambitious projects with high quality.