BT Group Keeps Customers Connected with Lightning-Fast Inventory Management

Neo4j powers a visionary, scalable, intent-based inventory solution for BT Group that reduces capacity planning up to 50%.

“The Neo4j SRIMS platform provides significant performance improvements over the previous relational database solution, enabling radical new levels of efficiency and insight.”

-Sreenath Gopalakrishna, Director of Software Engineering, BT Group

Few companies can boast a legacy that predates the invention of the lightbulb. BT Group’s origins date back to 1846 when the Electric Telegraph Company developed a nationwide communications network, laying the ground for what later became British Telecom. Today BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions, and services. 

BT Group’s purpose is simple: to connect for good. There are no limits to what people can achieve when they come together — the connections we make can help solve the world’s largest challenges. BT Group fuels connection through the power of technology, supporting customers to live, work, and play together better.

Keeping customers seamlessly connected is less simple. BT Group’s network is complex — it consists of 20,000 cell sites, 1,900 high-bandwidth ethernet exchanges, and 150K ethernet-based circuits — all working to handle increasing demand. By the end of 2023, BT Group saw record internet traffic of 30+Tbps, an increase in core traffic over 2022. 

Behind the scenes, BT Group manages and processes orders for all the hardware components needed to maintain and strengthen its networks. Given the complexity of the networks, inventory management presents a critical operational challenge, which prompted BT Group to look for an innovative new solution.

“We recognized an opportunity to move our systems to real time for greater operational insight, to speed our service delivery, and to automate planning and design,” says Sreenath Gopalakrishna, Director of Software Engineering at BT Group.

Gopalakrishna and his team built a Network Inventory Platform, known as SRIMS, with Neo4j and APIs to integrate with other business systems. This allows BT Group to manage its high volume of orders in a timely and cost-effective way.

“SRIMS is a visionary project led by our Networks team. Now we can ensure data integrity and provide a unified view across physical, logical, virtual, and service entities,” says Gopalakrishna.

An Inventory System Overhaul Unlocks Unified Network Planning

Before SRIMS, BT Group lacked a unified view of inventory data. With a landscape that included 350 different IT systems, the inventory was expensive to maintain and challenging to manage. 

Without a central source of truth, the team put in extensive and time-consuming manual work and analysis. The need for a new solution became pressing.

BT Group began looking at other graph databases to support one system of record and end-to-end planning. Against the full list of criteria, including enterprise-ready support and security features, Neo4j scored highest among available graph databases.

BT Group challenged Neo4j to implement the new inventory management platform so that it fits within their current operations and code base. Neo4j’s professional services consultants worked closely with BT Group’s development team and Infosys to complete a technical integration and data migration from the legacy graph to Neo4j, rigorously tested against BT Group’s priorities. 

The OrientDB platform was initially implemented using OrientDB APIs, but the Neo4j team applied an OGM layer instead (using Neo4j’s Object Graph Mapper software tool) to serve as the interface between existing code and the new graph database. The team was able to reuse existing code with minimal changes. 

The result was a smooth transition and roll-out of the rebuilt Service and Resource Inventory Management System, known as SRIMS, which now consolidates hundreds of inventory systems and serves as a digital twin for BT Group’s Wholesale Network Inventory.

“We implemented the Neo4j Graph Database to solve critical operational challenges and to rebuild a pivotal part of our key operational support system,” says Gopalakrishna.

SRIMS — a Visionary, Scalable, Intent-Based Inventory Solution that Reduces Capacity Planning up to 50%

Creating a digital twin has a far-reaching impact. Engineers can now quickly understand the condition of network resources and identify where additional switches and routers are needed in local exchanges, central offices, or data centers. With a real-time view of network capacity, resources can be rapidly reallocated when new services are rolled out. 

“The Neo4j SRIMS platform provides thousand-fold performance improvements over the previous solution, enabling radical new levels of efficiency and insight,” says Gopalakrishna.

The data integrity allows BT Group to diagnose and optimize network issues more quickly, ensuring customers stay well-connected.

“We can now perform service design and provision for products very quickly.” SRIMS can process more than 5,000 order progress reports per hour and 50,000 product availability check requests per day against strict SLAs.” says Gopalakrishna. “Better performance also leads to significant cost savings which enables us to reinvest back into the business.” 

SRIMS also incorporates a low-code platform to support DevOps, allowing the team to test, build, and deploy code into the network much faster. SRIMS is used by 3,000 BT Group employees and, at peak, handles more than 1,500 concurrent users.

SRIMS also achieves a high level of automation and self-service by using a 3D visualization tool for network planning. Engineers can start a new workflow at the click of a mouse. “We’ve reduced capacity planning time by up to 50%, and we see better design accuracy overall,” Gopalakrishna says. “Human decision points have been reduced by as much as 60%, allowing our engineers to focus on the more sophisticated, forward-looking development work that enables us to continue our lead in transforming communications.”

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