A network operations center, or NOC, is like a company’s nervous system, overseeing the performance and health of a telecommunication network at all times of the day. Not every business needs NOC support, but those that do need it will be at serious risk if they go without it. In-house monitoring, for example, can seem like an attractive option due to its reduced cost, but it doesn’t provide the kind of round-the-clock support that today’s businesses need from their network support specialists.
It’s best to think of NOCs as that first line of defense against the myriad of disruptions that telecommunication networks suffer from, though that’s not all they do. But what makes them tick? What kind of technology is needed to ensure they operate efficiently at all times? Let’s explore
The Anatomy of a Network Operations Center
NOCs perform a variety of roles, though again, they are primarily tasked to respond to a variety of alerts, including communication line issues and power failures. NOC engineers are responsible for handling these alerts, working to pull resources to compensate for any performance drop, and dispatching crews to fix any physical damage to the line. Beyond this, NOCs may do the following:
- Develop reports for network performance, optimization and health.
- Install, update and troubleshoot software on any device connected to the network.
- Monitor and manage firewall and network security software.
- Spot and analyze attacks on the network from outside sources.
- Patch network device software.
- Provide antivirus support.
- Back up data stored on network devices.
That’s a lot to handle for a single team, but NOCs and their skilled engineers are trained for the task. But they can’t do it alone, and this is where A/V technology comes into the picture. Modern NOCs look like something out of a movie, with an impressive array of display and audio technologies that deliver a wealth of information to NOC engineers. Some of that A/V technology includes:
1. Video wall displays – A video wall consists of an array of displays, arranged in a grid-like pattern and tied together so that they can operate as a single display unit. The strength in a video wall is in its modularity, as displays can be partitioned off to provide several images at once, at large sizes and at high resolutions. A popular application of video wall technology in NOCs is to maintain a visual map of the network as the main focus. When there are alerts, it is first represented on this map, giving engineers instant feedback on where the issue is, and whether it is tied to a particular device or a line issue.
Aside from this visual map, NOC video walls are used to track weather conditions, with radars and forecasts that may be relevant to where the network’s assets are located. It’s also common for NOCs to reserve some room for broadcast news feeds, which can also help NOC engineers react to events that may have an impact on the company’s operations.
NOC video walls 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 instead of people crowding around a couple monitors to review information, everyone in the NOC can review information relevant to the alert and respond faster.
2. Workstations with extra displays – Clearly, much of the information a NOC deals with is visual, and so it is important that engineers and technicians have the ability to comb through this information with as much space as possible. In addition to robust workstations, dual display setups give technicians and engineers much more desktop space to work with. More space means more data can be monitored at once, which improves efficiency and response speed.
3. Integrated audio inputs and outputs – Audio is typically considered secondary for NOC performance, but it can still perform an important role for NOC technicians. Some NOCs can be quite large, which makes it difficult for engineers and technicians to talk to each other and be heard. Audio inputs installed at each desk can lift a speaker’s voice so that it can be picked up everywhere in 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. In most cases, wall mount speakers are the preferred option, as they are easier to install and do a fine job of dispersing audio effectively. However, in the rare situations where aesthetics are important or regulations disallow wall mount speakers, ceiling speakers are a strong alternative.
In most NOCs, there is a separate conference room that is set off from the rest of the NOC floor. This conference room may be reserved for variety of purposes, including acting as something like a command center when there is a particularly troublesome alert ongoing. But when people are inside the conference room, they are effectively sealed off from the rest of the NOC. To combat this, 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 sounds that play when an alert occurs.
4. Control interface – All of this A/V technology needs to be controlled, and a standard option for doing so is with a touch panel interface. 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. A master control panel can be placed at a supervisor’s desk.
This is a lot of technology to bring into concert, and not something that can be managed without a reputable A/V integrator helping out. A talented A/V integrator can provide plenty of options in laying out display and audio devices, taking advantage of the NOC’s layout to ensure that optimal video and audio quality is achieved. In short, A/V integrators can provide a custom solution for all of a NOC’s needs. A larger video wall, interactive panels for rapid collaboration, advanced audio lifting technology – these are the kinds of A/V decisions an integrator can assist with.
And, of course, an integrator can perform long term support as a partner. This means tracking the performance of the A/V technology to verify that it is working to standard, responding immediately when there are technical issues and replacing older technology with new, better performing technology when possible.
NOCs are a critical element of network stability and security, and with the right A/V technology facilitating communication, they can operate at peak efficiency, morning, noon and night.