Programming for the NoC: Building Utilities for Career Progression
One could be forgiven if one believes that the Network Operations Center is a boring place to do business. Outsiders often picture techs staring at a lot of screens, looking for blips in the numbers. But, staying one step ahead isn’t as easy as you might think.
In reality, there is always something happening. There are always new metrics and endpoints that need to be analyzed, so the NOC needs to adapt. The NOC is not able to do this by itself, so to speak.
Tools of the NOC Trade
NOCs depend on a variety of utilities to detect abnormalities and take corrective actions when they occur. The unique thing about the job of a NOC tech is that there is no one-size-fits all NOC utility. Each organization has its own configuration. The NOC is forced to rely on a mix of utilities that aren’t compatible with each other. There are many options available to organizations, including:
NetIQ Operations Center is used to monitor applications, services, SLA’s, and other information
ManageEngine to Keep tabs on Windows Servers
Wireshark can analyze network protocols to find unauthorized or incorrect traffic
SpiceWorks for asset tracking, ticketing, and the knowledgebase
Solarwinds for server backups and security scans
Cisco Prime is a tool to troubleshoot and configure network equipment
The NOC tech is well placed to spot weak points in network monitoring, diagnostics and control. They are the closest point of contact to the data.
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Start trainingA resourceful NOC Tech might want to subdue the chaos of datastreams by automating the boring stuff. This is a great idea. It just requires some training in a high level programming language.
How to get more from your NOC Utilities
Monitoring tools should be integrated to each other and tied into your alert or ticketing systems for a smoother NOC. This is not possible if you just grab a tool off the shelves. Although most NOC utils have a GUI-based configuration that will give you limited functionality, this will not make it any easier.
Most software found in a NOC has an application program interface (API), or command line interface(CLI) that allows you to integrate the product into your specific workflow. Many NOCs lack the engineering talent required to keep up with a constantly changing set of configurations and integration parameters. Why not take on the task yourself?
Programming can make a NOC run smoother in many ways. Implementing triggers is one of the best uses of the NOC. A trigger can take an action based upon monitored criteria. Manual operations are no longer required to start and stop servers, bring additional capacity online, or reroute network traffic.
It is also easy to create simple scripts to automate log search. Although your NOC may use a GUI tool to generate log files reports, these tools often lag behind hackers. It is easy to spot a pattern in the latest exploits, and to create a script to locate them in near real time.
A majority of NOC software has a GUI interface that you can customize to remove unused features or add your tools, such as on a context (right click) menu. Make sure that the API can be accessed directly from the GUI before you make a decision on a piece of NOC software.
Most enterprise networks today are based on hybrid clouds. Because of the interdependence between different architectures, network operations can be difficult. Cloud providers integrate their API and CLI into their instances. This can be used to automate tasks and streamline administration across local and remote networks.
A little programming can also be used to integrate your monitoring system.