It wasn’t that long ago that network operations management centers were manned by a few smart people and a handful of not-so-terribly-smart machines.
That’s the past, though—and today’s network operation centers (NOCs) are an entirely different breed. Instead of monitoring a few dozen different pieces of information, modern NOCs are simultaneously processing thousands of bits of data, analyzing them and making predictions about your computer systems. The new NOC is a really incredible place.
A Look Behind the NOC Curtain
A really good NOC should be one that you never realize is there.
After all, their primary goal is to keep your systems up and running, so if that’s happening properly, you have no reason to notice your operations management centers at all. But if you were to step behind the curtain, just for curiosity’s sake, to see what sort of things they’re doing today, you’d be absolutely amazed.
In a perfect world, the operations management center is a place where information, well-trained human staff and properly configured smart tools meet to monitor all the servers and infrastructure that it takes to make up your IT systems. From your cloud centers to your application or Web servers, the NOC is always watching for problems and waiting, ready to fix them when they occur. Reactive NOCs are good at getting you back online when things go wrong, but what if your NOC could do even better?
Reactive vs. Proactive NOCs
When you hire an operations management center, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting in the deal.
Is the team you’re hiring reactive or proactive? This question is vital to the health of your business. A reactive NOC can keep your business running acceptably well, but there will be downtimes. If a major problem strikes, you could experience extended outages, which can cost you time and money. The problem, really, is in how a reactive NOC handles its data.
A reactive system lacks tools that can foresee problems. Instead of having the system flag alerts of consequence, teams of trained people are often charged with manually combing over hundreds of thousands of pieces of information to search for problems. This leads to information overload and missed warnings—often to the point that obvious issues are ignored or dismissed until they result in completely non-functioning systems.
That’s why proactive, intelligent operations management centers are the future of NOCs. The differences are startling—and significant when it comes to your business. The concept is entirely different from the ground-up. A proactive NOC is designed to be predictive and foresee problems long before they happen so that the team can constantly be performing maintenance to keep the system running smoothly, instead of just waiting around to fix it when it periodically breaks down. These operations management centers don’t just employ humans to watch over all the alerts and data streams that are constantly demanding attention, but in addition, helper smart applications are also on board to sort out the false alarms from the alarms that need to be monitored more closely.
Structured processes are in charge of comparing alerts system-wide and creating correlations between them that help highly-trained human operators determine exactly where a problem seems to be occurring. Using automatic triage tools that help humans quickly find the source of a problem, the operation team focuses its efforts on preventing downtime and glitches.
The True Cost of Unplanned Downtime
Avoiding unplanned downtime is the goal of the proactive operations management center.
For most modern businesses, downtime is unbelievably costly, not to mention frustrating, Not only is there the cost of lost business during the downtime to consider, there are also lost production hours for each employee, missed deadlines, damaged reputations and sometimes even regulatory issues to consider. Unplanned downtime is more than just a few guys twirling around in their chairs waiting for the network to come back up—it’s a major expense.
Instead of worrying about unplanned downtime, consider upgrading to an intelligent, proactive NOC. These companies will be able to show you the tools they use to monitor applications and infrastructure, as well as the parameter they’ve defined as most vital for systems like yours. These should include items like health of services, availability and bandwidth monitoring.
Today’s intelligent NOC is an operations management center that’s always looking forward, anticipating problems before they happen and constantly improving its processes in the hopes of becoming completely and entirely invisible—yet highly valuable—to your team.