North American Network Operators Group

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Re: NOC Personel Question (Possibly OT)

  • From: Jeremy Chadwick
  • Date: Thu Mar 15 10:55:35 2007

On Thu, Mar 15, 2007 at 09:49:36AM -0400, Donald Stahl wrote:
> We call our level 1 NOC people "Operators." We reserve Network Analyst for 
> the level 2 people who also do some small amount of scripting and other 
> more advanced troubleshooting. Network Analyst makes me think of Stock 
> Analysts, though. The problem is that they aren't very good at telling me 
> what kind of returns I can expect on my equipment and what the future 
> holds for the network :)
> Has anyone thought to clearly define these titles somewhere so that 
> everyone can standardize on them?

Because each NOC is different, depending upon what hiring practises
are deployed by the company populating aforementioned NOC.

Here's two NOCs for you (yes, both are real):

1) Expected to have above-average UNIX skills, above-average exposure to
DNS (understanding SOAs, must have familiarity with dig, etc.),
familiarity with HTTP (manual fetches/form queries, etc.), SSH and
related aspects (tunnels, keys, etc.), decent networking troubleshooting
skills (more than just exposure to ping, exposure to BGP is good,
knowledge of the OSI layer is highly respected, etc.).  Of course the
standard crap also applies: extensive ticket work, answering phone calls
+ dealing with clients, escalation procedures, 24x7 operations (e.g.
graveyard guys getting little sleep), etc..  NOC employees have root and
enable on systems and networking devices, and are encouraged to use them
to track -- and solve -- issues if they feel comfortable/know how
(otherwise escalate/check with someone else).  Hiring practises also
require personable people (read: no ego, are willing to teach others),
and do not hire people who tote themselves as superior or "too proud
to work in a NOC".

2) Anyone with the least bit of any IT experience at all ("I know how to
install Windows Server and plug in PCI cards, is that OK?") is hired.
Don't know anything about UNIX?  No problem, here's some documentation
you can read that'll teach you.  Don't know how TCP/IP works?  That's
fine, it's not part of the job, just escalate according to this
procedure.  If the individual has extensive experience(s), great, hire
them.  If they have very few skills but have more than none, hire them.
NOC employees do not have root/enable; all issues are escalated.
Management adheres to "Rules must be followed"  "Do not try to be
different"  "We like robots" ideals.

NOC #2 is what most people think of, and that's understandable, because
there's a lot of NOCs which are completely chaotic and borderline
useless (read: getting in the way of engineers solving problems more so
than helping them solve the problem).

My point is, people working in NOC #1 would be generally disappointed to
have to put "NOC Analyst" on their business card when most of their time
was spent doing SA or NA-related things.  NOC #2 individuals probably
won't care (the skilled ones might care, but might not make a big deal
about it, because maybe they're just happy that they have a job at all.)

So, my recommendation to the OP would be to pick titles appropriate
to the individuals' skill set.  The term "NOCster" or "NOCling" or other
such terms are *not* terms of endearment -- they're borderline
insulting, unless your NOC is like #2, which in that case you might as
well just put down "Emotionless Robot", because that's eventually
how people become in those environments.

| Jeremy Chadwick                                 jdc at |
| Parodius Networking               |
| UNIX Systems Administrator                   Mountain View, CA, USA |
| Making life hard for others since 1977.               PGP: 4BD6C0CB |