Community News

Dealing with the new normality

The SIG-NOC community met virtually on 23 June for the twelfth SIG-NOC gathering. The meeting focussed on the new normality after the COVID-19 lockdown, discussing tools and processes in the new reality and the debugging of incidents at the Network Operation Centres. The meeting had two main sessions, each one ending with an interactive session, where more than 30 attendees debated and exchanged experiences about the changes and challenges faced during the pandemic.

The first session, with four speakers, was an update on the situation in different NRENs and NOCs after the lifting of restrictions and how the reopening is accelerating in some countries more than others. Some NOCs are already on-site, while others will be off-site until 2021. All the NOCs have noticed important changes in services usage, drops in incoming traffic and a huge increase in filesender and videoconferencing systems usage.

Brian Nisbet (HEAnet) explained how the lockdown and physical distance have changed the landscape, from troubleshooting problems to hiring staff, and how positive lessons can also be learnt, such as building trust in the team. Bojan Jakovljevic (AMRES) shared the experience of going back to the office as a small team since mid-May, where it’s easy to communicate and organise. Jon Sherk (Indiana University, GlobalNOC) showed the ideas that came from previous crisis exercises and how the goal was to maintain user experience, leading to some process changes. Finally, Petr Hanousek (CESNET) explained the changes in the NOC shifts and the issues encountered in procurement processes and filtering authorisation under cyber-attacks during the pandemic, and how these were solved.

A Mentimeter questionnaire at the end of this first session was used to gain a global overview of the situation in different NOCs. The vast majority of the NOCs are doing business as usual, but working from home or in a mixed environment (home/office) and it seems this will be the situation in the next months, at least until the end of the year. What were the lessons learned during the pandemic? There is consensus around the fact that working from home increased productivity, also recognising that physical social contact is still very important. Internal and external communications and the usage of chat communication tools increased incredibly. The main challenges concerned migrations and tasks that needed physical access to sites were and often needed to be postponed.

The second session featured a mix of COVID-19 presentations and NOC troubleshooting topics. Rob Evans (Jisc) explained how the traffic at Jisc is currently  much more symmetric than before the pandemics, although the traffic patterns with GÉANT have not changed significantly. Hank Nussbacher (IUCC) emphasised how time-consuming and difficult is to troubleshoot a problem when the resolution does not depend only on your NOC. Finally, Tony Barber (GÉANT) explained some aspects of network management and troubleshooting with WAN-Phyisical layer Device and how using Bidirectional Forwarding Detection may offer a solution.

The last part of the meeting was a group breakout session discussing the changes in usage profiles, tools, problems and customer feedback. All the discussions’ results were subsequently shared by the Steering Committee’s members.

The presentations, the Mentimeter results and the discussions are available on the twelfth SIG-NOC meeting page.

The session’s recording is available on demand for the SIG-NOC community’s members. Please get in touch with Magda Haver at GÉANT.