Network Operation Center / Control Room Design
A Network Operation Center, or NOC, is essentially a centralized command center allowing organizations to monitor complex networking environments that require high availability. In other words, they are the unified base of operations within a Data Center Network. Much like a Control Room or Command Center, they function as a centralized space where activity can be monitored or controlled, and are specific to the Data Center environment.
Although they slightly differ from industrial Control Rooms, they are similar in many ways as it relates to the errors made in the design process. For the purpose of this discussion, a few of the common errors associated with NOC design will be highlighted. Over the course of this content, we will feature a few items to consider throughout the design process of a Network Operation Center and common oversights made in the process.
The weak link in any NOC room or Control Room is the human factor. With technology continually advancing and creating more intellectual environments, the overall equipment is not the number one dynamic creating risk to an organization. The number one cause for catastrophe, is negligence within the human/operator element. Most of the time this form of crisis is not to the fault of the operator. Much of the blame can be placed on the layout of the room and unaccountability of factors that create a hazardous working environment for operators. Acoustics, traffic flow, line of sight, etc…are all factors that can play a major role in creating a “busy” atmosphere.
In this case, we will briefly highlight Immediate and Fatigue Related errors.
Network Operations Center Immediate Errors
Immediate Errors are usually more evident, though they may remain hidden until crisis happens. These problems, such as an engineer not being able to obtain correct information fast enough, may result in a hard shut-down of critical units. Improper sight lines, too much noise, poor lighting, interruptions, insufficient amount of display screens, distractions, etc., are typical causes of “immediate” errors.
How do these immediate errors manifest themselves? Misreading data because the text on the screen is too small or too far away, can result in slow response due to inefficient workflow and poor sight lines. In these cases, there are immediate availability concerns that can be disastrous to an organization that relies on maintaining uptime.
Control Room Fatigue Related Errors
Many of these same elements – as well as more complex issues – can cause operator fatigue over time, leading to Fatigue-Related Errors. In these cases, a small issue has a cumulative effect over time, creating a situation where the operator is consistently less effective than they should be. Once an operator is fatigued, they are more likely to miss information, misread and/or misinterpret information, communicate poorly, be slow to respond or not respond at all. This effectively degrades the reliability for the entire operation in a way that is hard to detect. Fatigue-Related Errors are especially dangerous, because they don’t appear consistently. The effects of fatigue will vary from person to person, from day to day, making them difficult to predict without careful diagnosis. This element of unpredictability is the exact opposite of effective control room process.
In conclusion, this is a brief intro into taking a holistic approach in NOC design and the benefits of designing from an operations-first mentality. Over the next few months I will highlight many of these issues in more depth as well as tie in additional factors that play a large role in Control Room design.
For any additional information on this topic reach out to Cwilson@LegacyDenver.com or visit our website at www.LegacyDenver.com. We will be highlighting issues surrounding NOC’s, Control Rooms, and Command Centers over the course of the next year.