This article is a story about human ingenuity and the enormous achievements of humanity. In part relating to the inventiveness of OSS, but also by drawing comparisons to the exploration of space.

Apollo 11 is famous for being the mission that first put man on the moon. But it was the Apollo 8 mission  that laid some of the most important groundwork that paved the way for a successful moon landing.

Apollo 8 achieved a number of important firsts, which included being the first manned flight to leave low Earth orbit, but more importantly, the first to perform an orbit of the moon.

It’s the latter that bears most importance in terms of communications systems. In performing the lunar orbit, the command module’s trajectory took it to the far side of the moon.


Two of the most challenging stages of the Apollo 8 mission were the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) to enter the moon’s orbit and the Trans-Earth Injection (TEI), extracting the control module from its lunar orbit and plotting a path back to Earth. The LOI required the crew to fire its boosters at precisely the right time, for precisely the right duration to slow the module enough to enter a lunar orbit. The TEI required a similar burn, but to slingshot the module out of lunar orbit and back on a path home. Both of these manoeuvres were performed from the far side of the moon and out of radio contact with mission control in Houston.


For the TEI, a failure to ignite the boosters would’ve stranded the astronauts in lunar orbit. Too much boost could’ve seen the module crash into the moon. Too little could’ve seen it careening into space. All three scenarios would’ve left the astronauts stranded.


On each of Apollo 8’s ten lunar orbits, communications were lost on the far side of the moon, leaving mission control with nothing to do but wait and hope that transmission could resume once signals could be regained. Following the all-important TEI burn, the command module’s telemetry was received by mission control at 89 hours, 28 minutes and 39 seconds into the mission - in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. This engineering triumph assured the team that all of the planning for, and actions on, the far side of the moon had successfully plotted a path home for Apollo 8 and the crew onboard.


Herein lies the analogy to Physical Network Inventory (PNI). The physical plant that comprises cables, splice enclosures, patch-panels, etc are permanently on “the far side of the moon,” with no means of communicating back to mission control (i.e. Network Operations Centres). These passive devices have no API, no means of informing of their current status, performance, connectivity, etc.


The NOC has no visibility of what’s actually happening out in the field. There are many things that could go wrong, some down to human error or bad planning; others just due to bad luck, accidents or unknowns. Like mission control in Houston, the NOC is blind to the physical network. They’re completely at the mercy of the pre-planning efforts of the designers and systems as well as the actions of the astronauts (technicians) who are observing the reality that’s out in the field.


OSS are a vital tool for the success of telecommunications missions. They are the tools that allow the designers to engineer, plan and track the build of the physical network. They’re the tools that allow the field workforce to observe whether the network is configured as planned (or whether it diverges from plan). They’re the tools that allow central operations groups to have an understanding of what “should” be happening, whilst awaiting for reports to come in from the field.


The OSS, or more specifically, the PNI tools, are the essential mechanism that allows planners, operators and technicians (astronauts) to communicate consistently and coordinate activities that ensure the physical infrastructure performs its primary task – to provide network services to customers.


When interacting with PNI tools, planners, operators and technicians may not have the same fear for the consequences as everyone involved in the Apollo 8 mission.  We may not leave any astronauts stranded off in space with no way of returning to Earth. However, we do potentially leave customers stranded without service. In most cases this is a mere inconvenience. In other cases, such as critical communication links like emergency services, e-health, security alarms and even services like traffic light controls, we are talking about life and death situations.


PNI tools need to provide functionality for recording and viewing data so that the combined workforce can ensure network availability as well as diagnose and fix unforeseen problems as they arise. A sometimes-forgotten factor is that PNI tools also need to provide functionality to ensure data integrity remains high. This is not just the responsibility of the PNI, but also the human/machine processes that are built around it.


The SunVizion OSS tools have been developed around end-to-end workflows to help communicate and coordinate the events that impact on what’s happening on the far side of your moon, including:

Can you rely on your OSS to provide observability of your far side of the moon? If not, contact us to discuss how we might better assist your mission control.