The working definition of a Network Operations Center (NOC) varies with each customer we talk with; however, the one point which remains unified is that the NOC should be the main point of visibility for key functions that combine to provide business services.
The level at which a NOC ‘product’ is interactive depends on individual customer goals and requirements. Major equipment vendors trying to increase revenue are delving into management and visibility solutions with acquisitions and mergers, and while their products may provide many good features; those features are focused on their own product lines. In mixed vendor environments this becomes challenging and expensive, if you have to increase the number of visibility islands.
One trend we have seen emerging is the desire for consolidation and simplification within the Operations Centre. In many cases our customers may have the information required to understand the root cause but, getting to that information quickly is a major challenge across multiple standalone tools. Let’s face it, there will never be one single solution that will fulfill absolutely all monitoring and business requirements, and having specialized tools is likely necessary.
The balance lies in finding a powerful, yet flexible solution; one that not only offers a solid core functionality and feature set, but also encourages the orchestration of niche tools. A NOC tool should provide a common point of visibility if you want to quickly identify which business service is affected; easily determine the root cause of that problem, and take measures to correct the problem. Promoting integration with existing business systems, such as CMDB and Helpdesk, both northbound and southbound, will ultimately expand the breadth of what you can accomplish within your overall business delivery strategy. Automated intelligent problem resolution, equipment provisioning, and Change and Configuration Management at the NOC level should also be considered as part of this strategy.
Many proven efficiencies are exposed when you fully explore tool consolidation with a goal of eliminating overlapping technologies and process related bottlenecks, or duplication. While internal tool review often brings forth resistance, it is necessary, and the end result can be enlightening from both a financial and a process aspect. Significant cost savings are easily achieved with fewer maintenance contracts, but with automation a large percent of the non-value adding activities of network engineers can be automated within a product, freeing network engineers to work on proactive new innovations and concepts.
The ‘Dark Side’
Forward thinking companies are deploying innovative products which allow them to move towards unmanned Network Operations Center, or ‘Dark NOC’. Factors such as energy consumption, bricks and mortar costs, and other increasing operational expenditures strengthen the fact that their NOC may be located anywhere with a network connection and still provide full monitoring and visibility. Next generation tools are no longer a nice to have, but a reality in today’s dynamic environment! What is your strategy?