What is a Network Operations Center?

A network operations center sometimes called a “full service” network Operations Center (NOC), is one or more places from which network management and monitoring, or overall network administration, is performed over a single computer, telecommunications, or satellite network. A Network Operations Center (NOC) houses one or more computers with terminals designed to support network management and monitoring. The primary use of a NOC is to centrally manage a large system of computers. A smaller version of a network operations center is sometimes referred to as an office monitoring center.

There are several kinds of NOCs. There are central NOCs that monitor a large area for performance issues. Larger offices may have multiple such NOCs. There are MIPs or multi-protocol switch (MPS) NOCs that connect different workstations to a common monitor. MPLS NOCs combine various technologies to create a globally reliable solution for traffic monitoring.

A network operations center monitors the health of a network by detecting performance issues as well as faults. The monitoring technique used depends on the size and complexity of the system being monitored. The NOC may send alerts to the network administrator or via a message bus to relay performance information to application servers and web services. The main advantage of centralized NOC is the centralization of resources for better utilization.

A network operations center also has people on staff who can troubleshoot issues of interest remotely. These individuals are typically called NOC testers. Remote monitoring is possible using either PC-based consoles or Internet-based consoles. In some cases, both NOC testers and NOC managers can be located in different locations. NOCs use firewall-like features and other hardware and software protection to prevent unauthorized access to the data.

Like other elements of a data center, an NOC possesses routing and forwarding equipment as well as routers. For purposes of troubleshooting and monitoring, routers are often connected to a central database management system (CDMS) using WAN or LAN cables. The central database management system stores information about all devices connected to the network. All routing and forwarding operations are determined by these systems.

The main objective of a network operations center is to provide the highest level of visibility into the system. It provides real-time monitoring of critical traffic to ensure minimal interruption to business operations. It also helps in the recovery of downed machines and helps in maintaining best practices in the deployment of new devices. It helps in the deployment of new upgrades in a phased manner without disrupting current business. It also allows easy configuration of routing appliances for optimal utilization of available bandwidth and speed.

Network operations centers are usually located in data centers adjacent to the physical server rooms. This arrangement helps in easy access by troubleshooting personnel and providing real-time assistance in case of system-wide problems. Such facilities also reduce the need for additional space or power sources. They can be used as data center replacements when IT investments are growing beyond a reasonable limit.

A network operations center offers guaranteed or near-guaranteed service to enterprises that need their data center presence in place as soon as possible. The services offered include routing, forwarding, data forwarding, troubleshooting, installation, upgrades, and maintenance.

The services can be availed at very reasonable costs with the best return on investment for enterprise users. The service providers offer services such as intrusion detection and prevention, address allocation, port mirroring, failover and failback, packet flooding, bandwidth prioritization, routing management, and more. In addition to these services, the service providers also offer hardware and software upgrades, security updates, application monitoring, intrusion notification, and monitoring, site outage notification and restoration, and security solution updates.

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