Your IT command center is a vital part of your operation. It is here that important decisions are made regarding the status and performance of your network. These decisions help protect your network and provide reliable service to your customers. More companies are expecting IT to play a larger role in supervisory control and data acquisition. Non-traditional equipment is showing up more frequently on the list of IT managed devices.
What critical issues should you consider to avoid common, expensive mistakes? If you already have a command center, how can you improve performance and more easily absorb additional responsibilities?
Have you heard these in conversations about your command center?
"Why don't we just use software that comes with the equipment? It's pretty slick!" Contemporary equipment will usually come with a powerful provisioning tool. A UPS device, for instance, will have an embedded web server that allows for configuration and management. This tool frequently includes some kind of presentation for a large number of status or problem conditions. It may even be able to notify users or up-stream systems using email or SNMP messages.
Use true 'managed alarm' notification instead of this 'integrated basic' notification and improve performance by insuring that the right person gets the right message at the right time. You can also increase productivity and reduce frustration by allowing users to 'acknowledge' an event and suppress unnecessary repeated notifications. True managed alarm notification also allows for intelligent escalation to avoid downtime and maintain customer satisfaction.
Avoid expensive training involved in separate status interfaces for each class of equipment. When provisioning, you clearly need to be trained on multiple versions (including the always latest) of equipment. But day-to-day status monitoring should not require training for every equipment class or new version you manage. Eliminating this unnecessary training can easily save in excess of $100K.
"No worries! All our new equipment has SNMP." SNMP is ubiquitous and sure to be a large part of event reporting and management in any contemporary network. It is based on a transport that does not guarantee delivery. SNMPv2 and SNMPv3 implementations while providing protocol support for more reliable messaging unfortunately leave important details regarding retry frequency and interval undefined. Equipment vendors have therefore created a hodge-podge of different interpretations of how frequently and how quickly an event message should get repeated if the receipt is not acknowledged. Some implementations don't even implement a retry if the message is not received. Many companies pay a huge training cost to keep the integrated configuration and management interface running for each and every equipment class to insure accurate status visibility.
"We're covered... all our equipment can send messages straight to our phones." Studies show that adjusting for a variety of different message formats is costly. It takes a certain amount of time to recognize the format, parse the information and recall the necessary response required. It is much easier to absorb the information if your IT command center messages are provided in a consistent format and include some indication of what you're probably supposed to do. Don't waste valuable response time because integrated messaging frequently has curious inconsistencies that require verifying the report. Is it actually true or 'it always sends that and you can just ignore it'? Save thousands of dollars simply by making sure the messages you send are accurate and actionable.
We don't have to worry about 'old' equipment. No question about it; new toys are more exciting and fun. Designing an IT command center, however, that is not able to absorb anything but 'new' equipment is a disaster. At best, you end up with an expensive parallel department dedicated to the old technologies. At worst, you end up with the old equipment under-monitored. One is costly, the other is a catastrophe waiting to happen. It is so much better to include capability not only for your new toys but also for old favorites. The telco industry provides abundant evidence that equipment often remains in service far beyond its original 'expected' life. Remember also that equipment from other departments may end up under your monitoring authority as companies continue to consolidate. If your company is or may be in acquisition mode, this would also include technologies from other companies. Don't paint yourself in a corner by only considering contemporary technologies.