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5 Pieces Of Technology Every Network Operations Room Should Have

A network operations room, or NOC, is the heartbeat of the network, which means it is a high priority facility. That’s true whether the NOC is part of a business, a utility company, the government, the military or any other institution that has a network to manage. And by high priority, this means that resources must be dedicated to the NOC to ensure it operates as smoothly as possible. Every NOC, no matter its scope, relies heavily on visual information in responding to any situation. As such, A/V technology can greatly improve how an NOC functions, and the speed at which it functions. Rock the NOC Operations CenterAll NOC’s are organized for expedient information delivery. Think Mission Control at NASA. All of the workstations and desks are arranged on one side of the room, facing a large video wall that commands everyone’s attention. Some NOCs are also built with additional rooms for tasks like conferencing and troubleshooting, but it’s the video wall and workstations that form the foundation. There are clear applications here for A/V additions, and for modern NOCs, it’s mandatory to bring in A/V solutions provided by a reputable, experienced integrator. A couple of quick reasons why:
  1. They’ve done it before – This is obvious, but NOCs are much more advanced than a home theater or even a corporate conference room. NOCs are built with function in mind, and that means careful equipment selection and configuration. It also means forecasting potential pressure points and avoiding any faults.
  2. They can provide ongoing support – Technology just doesn’t always work. No matter how beautifully it is engineered and applied, technology will eventually fail to some extent. The goal is to minimize the chances of failure, and minimizing the resulting downtime. A reputable integrator can package support services with it’s a/V solutions, providing the kind of regular maintenance that catches issues before they emerge. And an experienced integrator will have its processes so refined that it can respond to technical issues rapidly.
There are plenty more reasons why experienced integrators should be a focus, but those are the two most worth pointing out. As for the technology that every NOC needs to feature, much of it is A/V focused, and here are the critical pieces:

1. The display wall – This is the centerpiece of every NOC, and every room is built around it. Visibility and versatility are the watchwords here, so A/V integrators will emphasize the display wall’s size and resolution. Modern display walls are made up of high quality digital displays, usually backed by LED technology. LED displays are preferred for their excellent longevity and durability.

The display wall is responsible for organizing and delivering a constant stream of visual information. That information may include network status information, alerts regarding network outages or intrusion attempts, real time ticket status, weather information, news feeds, GPS tracking maps, video conferencing feeds, and anything else that the NOC staff requires to function efficiently. That information is often incredibly detailed and technically involved, so it has to be relayed in a way that is easy to see and easy to decipher. Quality digital displays are essential in that regard.

2. A display system processor – The display wall is the endpoint for all channels of information that the NOC relies on, and the display system processor is its brain. No display wall can function without one.

The display system processor acts as the display wall’s backend, allowing anyone with the appropriate permissions to access the display wall and configure its various functions. Most are made with an intuitive GUI that makes it easy for people to grasp with only light training. The GUI allows users to configure the display wall’s layout and where the different information feeds are assigned for output. Because this is GUI-focused, users can drag, drop and resize fields much like they would in any other program.

Through the display system processor, users can also program the display wall to operate at certain times and to save presets so that layouts can be cycled through in seconds.

3. Video conferencing equipment – Although video conferencing technology is not essential for NOC functioning, it can make the difference when outside help or training is needed to facilitate the NOC staff’s duties. NOC display walls can be tied to a video conferencing feed so that a single person can address the entire NOC staff at once. With sophisticated video conferencing software, trainers can present media and data to the entire room in clear, engaging fashion. It’s a truly effective means of training NOC staff on new tasks or bringing in critical personnel for emergencies.

Video conferencing equipment can also be confined to a room built off of the main NOC mission control. In this setting, private meetings between high level management and NOC team leaders can be organized.

4. Enhanced audio systems – Because NOCs are oversized rooms with challenging acoustics, A/V integrators will have to array and orient speakers carefully throughout the space. Several speakers, usually ceiling-mounted, will need to be spaced at regular intervals to allow for complete coverage. Additional speakers are often mounted to the display wall itself, again for better coverage.

For larger NOCs, it may be necessary to provide workstations with microphones, so that NOC staff can address the entire room at once without having to shout. Audio processors provide the foundation for all this hardware.

Zoned audio technology may be indicated when additional rooms are present. Zoned audio means only some audio outputs are fired, so audio can be directed to a private room for consideration by NOC team leaders.

5. System controllers – All of this technology must be controlled at a high level somewhere. Control panels provide that solution, and may be located at a manager’s workstation or in an entirely different room. Permissions can be set at every level, so that everyone has a precise set of permissions in accessing the system. Personnel responsible for NOC equipment upkeep, for example, can run diagnostics through the system controller.

The controller can be tied to every piece of A/V equipment in the NOC, including lighting, speaker volume and power to everything. And with configured presets, an NOC manager can bring the NOC up to standard operation with a single button press.

NOCs are an impressive weave of information, equipment and software. All three are essential to efficient and effective NOC functioning, and A/V integrators can assist with all three points in this critical triangle.