What is a NOC?

A network operations center (NOC) is a central location from which network administrators manage, control and monitor one or more networks exercised over a computer, telecommunication or satellite network. “NOCs are implemented by business organizations, public utilities, universities, and government agencies that oversee complex networking environments that require high availability. NOC personnel are responsible for monitoring one or many networks for certain conditions that may require special attention to avoid degraded service. Organizations may operate more than one NOC, either to manage different networks or to provide geographic redundancy in the event of one site becoming unavailable.” Wikipedia

A Network Operations Center, some time referred to Network Management Center, manages infrastructure and procedural changes, events, customer calls, security, quality control and assurance, monitoring tools, ticketing systems, integration with customer tools, reporting and dashboards, and more. As your NOC forms the vital link between the detection of a network problem and the implementation of a solution, the NOC team needs a state of the art equipment and tools to be able to deliver high-quality support. NOCs are primarily tasked to respond to a variety of alerts, and to do so the skilled engineers can’t do it alone, and this is where technology comes into the picture. Here’s the anatomy of the latest control rooms:

Video Wall Displays became indispensable to any NOC and of their popular application is to maintain a visual map of the network as the main focus. In case of an alert, the engineers will be able to spot it on the map giving them instant feedback on where the issue is, and whether it is tied to a particular device or a line issue. The video wall is arranged in a grid-like pattern and tied together so that the modules can operate as a single display unit. The NOC video wall displays are connected to workstations located on the NOC floor, so when there is an alert, NOC engineers from their desks can bring the alert’s details up on the video wall screen so everyone in the NOC can review information relevant to the alert and respond faster.

Workstations with extra displays are crucial for optimal efficiency. As the data required to be analyzed is mainly visual, it is important for the engineers and technician to have the space to comb through it. The more space the more data can be monitored at once, which improves efficiency and response speed. Such workstations are usually equipped with monitors, computers, speakers and headsets.

Integrated audio inputs and outputs are considered secondary to a NOC but they are important to the technicians. Audio inputs installed on each desk can lift a speaker’s voice so it can be heard all across the room. This audio is run through a processor that gathers and directs input signals to speaker outputs. These speakers can be mounted to the walls around the room, or integrated directly into the ceiling.

NOCs conference rooms are usually built off the NOC’s main floor or room, and they are well sealed so that the people inside are practically isolated from the rest of the NOC. To solve this problem, A/V integrators can provide zoned audio technology so that people inside the conference room can pick up on any conversation on the NOC floor, or any alert sound.

Control interface is what controls all the different devices and technology. It’s usually accessed through a touch panel. This panel can be installed anywhere, including in a separate control room. One option is to install touch interfaces at the workstations, giving every technician and engineer some limited control over the system while a master control panel can be placed at a supervisor’s desk.

Climate control is important to any NOC as it can and does generate a lot of heat with all the electrical equipment. Heat, humidity and ventilation are all important considerations when designing a NOC.

As a NOC acts as a central optic nerve, many equipments can be integrated into it as per the needs of each organization. Such equipment includes but is not limited to

  • GPS Receivers
  • Integrated Receivers and Decoders (IRD)
  • Broadcast Delays
  • Camera Control Units (CCU)
  • Multiplexes
  • Network Switches
  • Video Routers and Servers
  • Audio Monitoring Tools and Audio Routers
  • Encoders
  • Fiber Optic Transmitters

In conclusion, the most important thing to keep in mind when designing a NOC command room is that it has to withstand rigorous and continuous use 24 hours a day 7 days a week while supporting the operators comfort, awareness, and productivity–even during the longest, most stressful shifts.

NOCs are a critical element of network stability and security, and with the right technology facilitating communication, they can operate at peak efficiency, morning, noon and night. Many organizations outsource their NOC services to reduce cost but Greg Schulz, an analyst with Server and StorageIO Group says: “Start thinking of NOCs from a strategic business asset perspective as opposed to seeing them as a cost-overhead.”