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Behind the NOC

Tony Recchio and Paul Francavilla work to keep the Network Operations Center (NOC) running

Article by Rick Lesniak / Photo by Blake Cooper

Published September 2, 2014

Anyone who has gotten a UBIT Alert posting or email has seen the invitation to get more information by contacting “the NOC.”  What is this NOC and how does it know so much about what’s happening?

Simply put, the Network Operations Center is a group of people whose role it is to monitor and respond to computer and networking events that signify possible disruptions or outages in a wide array of information technology services. The staff of the NOC work 24 by 7, 360 days of the year – round the clock.  Those other five days, all major holidays, the NOC is in "unattended mode," but technical staff still receives notifications through automated monitoring systems.

Some History

When computers were large arrays of devices that occupied multiple rooms, there were many tasks that required “operator” intervention.  Computers required activities such as mounting storage tapes and disk packs, loading paper in line printers, and running sequences of programs.  Someone had to continuously monitor system "consoles," i.e. video displays, and interact with the computer. With the onset of internetworking, monitoring links between computers was added.

In time, operator intervention became less frequent, and automation of system monitoring was introduced, but some situations still required human cognition and decision-making abilities. In addition, people could see emerging patterns of disruption before major outages would occur. With the introduction of the NOC, "for the first time, we would know about a problem before someone else in UB told us about it," says Mark Deuell, Director of Network and Classroom Services (NCS).

The Future

The NOC remains a vital component of operations for UB Information Technology.  NOC personnel are the ever-present human point of contact for UBIT problems, and they are expert on how to escalate reported problems to the appropriate technical staff.  In addition, the NOC holds a key role in communicating UBIT service disruptions and outages to the campus when they occur after normal business hours.