In part one of this series, our COO tackles the history and purpose of the NOC.

A NOC, for those who don’t know, stands for Network Operations Center and, quite simply, is how large organizations with complex systems monitor them. Early versions of the NOC came about in the early 1960’s when there was a need for humans to actively take part in noticing, and fixing, complex errors. An early NOC was opened by AT&T in New York to display switch and route information, in real-time. It’s easy to see why a NOC used to be considered essential for larger companies that deal with a myriad of issues that call for escalation and rational judgement.

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Back when the NOC was based in the telecommunications industry, the job was a much different one. The Network Operations Center was designed so that all of the important information necessary to the system was easily consumed by a few people sitting in the same “war room” if you will. There were several rows of desks, all facing a wall of big screens which typically show critical info in real time, making the sharing of this data amongst the group very simple.

Today NOC engineers monitor infrastructure health, security and capacity while making decisions that optimize network performance. Depending on what incidents arise, the NOC might be researching anomalous activities, making adjustments and corralling the resources needed for an emergency situation. The depth of their coverage ranges from troubleshooting app installations to backup management to firewall monitoring.

Some companies opt for an in-house NOC while others can’t justify the cost and therefore turn to outsourced options. Both choices have pros and cons to them (enough for a completely different post) but one thing that can be said of the NOC – it is not designed to be a help desk. The NOC provides back end maintenance, problem resolution and support so that the company can be freed up to deal with client-facing issues. Fielding front-line questions from customers is the responsibility of a help desk or support team – not the NOC.

Historically, the NOC was standard operating procedure and just assumed to be the only way to deal with complex systems. There has always been a need for human intervention and the NOC provided that. They were created out of this necessity but today, many of the traditional NOC functions have been automated and replaced by monitoring software.

We view the NOC as the human version of what our product does. To that end, in part 2 of this series, I’ll show how VictorOps can be used to empower the traditional NOC.