The Network Operations Center, or NOC, is the beating heart of the data center. The room is hung with TV screens and stuffed with computers, staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So what are the NOC technicians up to during all that time? Quite a bit, actually. Let's take a look at a night in the life of a NOC tech.
Physical Facility Monitoring
NOC staff must ensure the reliability of data center equipment as well as facility security. A tech might start off their evening with a walkthrough of the entire data center floor, checking that equipment is locked (all colocation clients have their own cages or modules). While they're at it, they'll look for any environmental issues, checking for overly hot or cold equipment, reading the humidity levels, and sniffing the air for any abnormal scents (fried motherboards have a very particular smell). They must have sharp ears, listening for grinding hard drives or shorting equipment.
The facilities also are monitored by special software, known as DCIM, or data center infrastructure management software. From the NOC, technicians can keep an eye on temperature, what doors are open, and even the current processes and virtual machine status of individual machines. This monitoring service is performed for customers as well as our own internal use. NOC staff keeps an eye on the weather forecast and internet latency, constantly checking to make sure no network spikes or storms will interrupt customer service.
Customer Support and Tickets
NOC techs spend a good chunk of time every shift on customer support, responding to all incoming calls or tickets, which are digital requests for assistance generated through our customer portal. Every ticket is responded to as soon as possible to alert customers that a NOC staff member is on the case and taking appropriate steps to resolve the issue. Most problems are solved within an hour or two maximum, and every ticket at least receives a response within just a few minutes.
The NOC staff also opens tickets themselves, after proactively discovering possible issues with customer servers. If a customer has a hard drive filling up, issues with connectivity, or trouble with their VPN (virtual private network), and our staff discovers the problem before they do, we will send them a ticket notifying them of the problem and letting them know we are working on resolving it.
Patching and Scanning Servers
The NOC takes care of the data center equipment like its own child. A technician will spend several hours every night performing routine maintenance on servers, regularly scanning for infections and installing the latest patches. Keeping VMs patched ensures limited vulnerability and top performance. Each patch release may affect different VMs differently, because of this NOC technicians will evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether additional components must be updated for a patch to install correctly. VMware vSphere Update Manager is used in combination with our own ninja skills for manual installations. Constant virus scanning and network monitoring keeps the occasional hiccup from impacting service.
Some nights might also include installing a new server for a colocation client, stopping to clean dust from a cable series while they're at it. Our NOC techs are a hardworking bunch, and they down a lot of Red Bull and coffee while burning the midnight oil to keep up our incredible service levels. Our customers recognize we go beyond a 100% SLA to deliver truly individual service, and it all starts in the NOC!
Posted By: Jeremy Smario