As more than 600,000 Hughes customers in North America go about their day-to-day activities, many may be unaware of the extensive satellite network and control center thats behind managing their HughesNet® broadband service. “It’s our job to make sure the service is always available to our customers,” said Bill McHargue, assistant vice president of network services in Germantown, Maryland. That means McHargue and his multi-functional team are working around the clock at the national Network Operations Center (NOC), which is the vital nerve center of North America’s HughesNet service delivery.
The NOC represents the culmination of all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the design and development of Hughes products and solutions—where the goal is delivering the highest quality of services possible and enabling customers to unlock the full benefits of broadband at home and at the workplace. It’s where Hughes keeps its finger on the pulse of those services, where services are managed and monitored, and when they may occur, where problems are fixed.
Beyond North America, Hughes owns and operates functionally similar, though smaller, NOCs strategically located in Griesheim, Germany, São Paolo, Brazil, and Gurgaon, India—delivering HughesNet services in Europe, Brazil, and India.
All in a Day’s Work
A walk through the NOC in Germantown reveals a bank of consoles and a dazzling wall of monitors reminiscent of mission control rooms such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Control Center in Houston. The screens provide an astonishing array of real-time data showing the health and welfare of HughesNet services and equipment at customer sites from as far north as the Arctic Circle to as far south as Honduras.
More than 70 onscreen graphs indicate when traffic is normal and when there is a problem. Visual alarms alert operators when something is amiss, enabling them to detect problems and often solve them before the customer knows it.
Situational awareness is critical to communications monitoring. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maps, for example, enable operators to monitor the weather. If a major weather system is going through, say, Indiana, operators use inbound polling to obtain site locations and site-down counts to help determine if customers in the region should be alerted.
Equally important, live news feeds keep operators current on news events, which can directly impact Internet traffic. Because an emergency or even a highly anticipated video, book, or software release can create spikes in Internet traffic, operators continually monitor capacity and utilization data, making recommendations for adjustments to improve delivery performance, as appropriate.
But it is from the bank of consoles that the deepest level of information can be retrieved. At more than 20 consoles, NOC operators continuously drill down to obtain the most minute details. Here, aided by audible alarms, operators can reach any server or piece of equipment anywhere in the network. They have complete access and control of the entire service to ensure that it runs consistently and meets customer requirements.
The very nature of a NOC means it operates continuously—365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Peak times of a typical day run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, with the center handling primarily business services and tasks during the day and shifting to a more consumer-based service in the evening when people are home using the Internet. In the wee hours of the morning when things are quiet, the staff performs maintenance tasks. And at 10:00 a.m., the cycle begins again.
The Service is the Thing
“We are the leading edge of a multi-functional team that supports service delivery. If we have a problem, we can literally call on any resource in the company to help restore service,” added McHargue.
As Hughes customers go about their business, they can rest assured that McHargue and his dedicated team are keeping the NOC humming along—in constant readiness to ensure the highest quality of HughesNet service delivery.