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xSP: Microland’s NOC

Stepping ahead with a NOC

Microland's Network Operations Center in Bangalore has been operating for four years now. Through it, Microland remotely manages the complete IT infrastructure of its clients. We look at Microland's NOC and what makes it tick. by Abhinav Singh

Microland set up its Network Operations Center (NOC) called the Operations Management Center in 1999. It functions 24 hours a day on all 365 days with 183 people on board. Microland's NOC caters to 15 customers including Blue Dart, Heinz, IDBI Bank, NetCom Systems, and a Fortune 10 customer, of whom roughly a third are in India. It is one of the few NOCs in India that manages the infrastructure for a BPO company.

The NOC supports over 3,00,000 users globally.

Services to the customers

Microland's NOC helps in the proactive identification and solution of problems that crop up in a client's IT infrastructure. Remote monitoring and remote management of problems at the center reduces the number of people required to perform similar functions onsite.

Much of this monitoring activity is automated and alerts are sent to the concerned people in the event of a problem. The NOC manages data centers (with hundreds of servers and network devices)—two in the US, one in Japan, two in the Asia Pacific region, and many in-house data centers located within a customer's premises across the world.

It manages enterprise networks and its client sites are located in the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Hungary, India, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and China.

The NOC manages enterprise security for its customers. This includes managing firewalls, VPNs, IDSs, content filtering software, encryption technology, and anti-virus. Enterprise storage architectures like NAS and SAN are managed at the NOC.

Web and intranet management

Web Servers and intranets are managed from the NOC for Microland's customers. In addition, the NOC has an enterprise helpdesk to support end-users. It manages messaging infrastructure, which includes managing messaging servers, gateways, access servers, and traffic robots for a large client with over 1,00,000 customers. Remote activities include managing data backup and restoration as well as disaster planning.

Value proposition

Suresh Raman, Vice-President, Marketing at Microland says, "The average savings per customer outsourcing management of its IT infrastructure to our NOC is between 40 and 50 percent."

The company claims to be able to better its service level agreements depending upon the requirement, criticality of the data and the need of its customers, since the NOC serves as a single point of contact for all problems related to the client's IT infrastructures.

"Our value proportion is distinctly in terms of cost savings, quality and process alignments and reliability and availability of services," explained Raman.

Equipment at the NOC

Microland's NOC houses equipment including servers, consoles, tools and instrumentation and large power backup generators. For starters, the NOC has a Pix Firewall from Cisco that provides an encrypted tunnel over the Internet.

There is also a Checkpoint Firewall that has a VPN device running over it. There are over a hundred servers running and around 50 layer 4 switches from Cisco.

The NOC uses an in-house software known as Magnify for logging calls. There is also a combination of different software tools to monitor the IT infrastructure of Microland's customers from the NOC.

Tools like What's Up Gold, an SNMP tool helps in detecting the internal status of different devices running at Microland's customer's site. Big Brother is used to sound alerts in case of any infrastructure problems at the customer site. There are also plans to deploy International Private Leased Circuits (IPLCs) in order to have separate connections for different customers.

The physical security setup

Starting from physical security to network security Microland's NOC is well protected. Fire alarms and smoke detectors help maintain physical security. There are two floors that host different areas of operations of the NOC. Doors on these floors open only if you have the right access card and you need a separate card for each floor.

All the servers at the NOC are rack-mounted and are enclosed in server and the network equipment rooms—all accessible only via access cards that are restricted to a few specialists and NOC managers. To physically guard all the floors there are six security guards manning the two floors.

The network security setup

To monitor the network as well as physical security there is a Technology and Practices team headed by Microland's CTO. It has 12-15 members specialised in the field of security and their main responsibility is to implement the BS-7799 security standard throughout the organisation.

Their task also includes drawing security parameters for any new product that is installed at the NOC. For this, the company has a specialised lab where it evaluates new products and sets security parameters for them. To maintain network security at the NOC there are firewalls, and all machines installed at the NOC are password protected. Network security is largely based on the guidelines of the BS-7799 standard.

Keeping it tight

Security at the NOC is very tight. From controlled physical access, to glass rooms for the monitoring centers, firewalls, IDS and encryption—everything is managed well at the NOC. It ensures that everything is managed to ensure full control and to comply with client security norms and standards.

Backup and physical infrastructure

Microland's NOC occupies a total floor area of 18,000 square feet. The power supply has redundancy built in at three levels including a fully redundant 50 KVA UPS (two 50 KVA UPSs are connected in parallel), a separate 5 KVA fully redundant UPS for the data center (CRM, HelpDesk, application servers and network devices). There's also a 500 KVA redundant generator to support the entire facility including the high voltage AC. The total AC capacity is 100 tons. This includes a central AC of 70 tons. There are also split and individual ACs for specific areas like the data center and monitoring room. Ambient temperature can be maintained as desired.

Abhinav Singh can be reached at abhinav@expresscomputeronline.com

Tools and instrumentation used

Microland's NOC has tools and Instrumentation customized to each client requirements as well as some existing with its client when it began offering its services to said client.

Help Desk Tools

  • Service Center
  • Magnify

Systems Management Tools

  • HP OpenView
  • Patrol Console
  • TNG Unicenter
  • Microsoft Operations Manager
  • EMC Navisphere
  • SAN Works

Server Management Tools

  • Compaq Insight Manager
  • Dell Open Manager
  • VM Ware

OS Management

  • NT Management Resource Kit
  • Sun Solaris

Point Management Tools

  • Hummingbird / Exceed
  • Terminal Service Client
  • Avocent
 
     
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