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Ideas For a Great Control Room?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the hunker-in-the-bunker dept.

Businesses 421

lewko writes "Our company is about to build a central monitoring facility and I'm looking for ideas/suggestions about the best hardware and the best way to make it comfortable for those manning a screen. It will be manned 24x7 and operators will be monitoring a variety of systems including security, network, fire, video and more. These will be observed via local multi-monitor workstations and a common videowall. This is going to be a massively expensive exercise and we only get one chance to get it right. The facility is in a secure windowless bunker and staff will generally be in there for many hours at a time. So we have to implement design elements which make it a 'happy' place. At the same time, it has to be ergonomically sound. Lastly, we will be showing it to our clients, so without undoing the above objectives, it would be nice if it was 'cool' (yet functional). Whilst Television doesn't transfer to real life always, think 'CTU' from 24."

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Tapes... (3, Funny)

Sharp-kun (1539733) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483572)

You need one of those old cabinets with tape reels ticking around. Adds to the atmosphere and will remind clients of Thunderbirds etc,

Fake windows (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483574)

Some fake windows, even just glass blocks with lights behind them, will do wonders. Also, make it so that people have to get up from chairs once in a while.

Re:Fake windows (2, Funny)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483832)

Also, make it so that people have to get up from chairs once in a while.

AWFUL! What you want are high-back chairs that support the neck so you don't have to support your body the entire time. Also full recline capabilities help, too. Ideally, they'll never have to get up from their chairs. Think fridge under the table with microwave on top, etc. Also, if they do need to move around for who know why, make it so that they can roll over to their destination. I modified my desk so that I can put my legs forward on a padded leather cushion instead of having them dangle, this really added to my quality of life in the office. I have to get up to fetch things from the fridge, but that was a sacrifice I made so that I had room for a spare chair next to me when the occasional friend stops in.

Re:Fake windows (1)

xombo (628858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483842)

Clearly you have no friends.

Re:Fake windows (2, Funny)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483854)

Be quiet, you're just as bad as I am, if not worse.

Re:Fake windows (1)

xombo (628858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483862)

At least my office has a window.

Re:Fake windows (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483864)

You just described Topher Brink's setup...you forgot the arcade games and fridges though.

Re:Fake windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483876)

Another vote for quality chairs. A bad chair for someone forced to sit in it for hours at a time is torture.

Re:Fake windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484104)

Another vote for actually taking proper breaks and leaving your chair regularly.

Being *forced* to sit in it for hours certainly is torture and you should look into whatever employee rights laws apply to you.

Re:Fake windows (1)

jbssm (961115) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484016)

No wonder people are getting fat.

Re:Fake windows (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484036)

No microwaves, no fridges in your control area. Believe me, you don't want a small fire or anything to damage your main room. Make them in a separate room that is not too far to walk but a fire retardant wall and door in between and the sprinkler system separate from your control room as well. That way a fire breaks out and it just floods the "kitchen" and not your control room. Make sure there is a drain in the floor your kitchen as well.

Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483580)

These will be observed via local multi-monitor workstations and a common videowall.

Like the bridge of the USS Entreprise?

Good lighting (5, Insightful)

oven (106325) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483582)

Whatever you do, don't make it dark with blue-ish lighting, like on TV. That strains your eyes. Provide good lighting, and make sure the persons can sit or stand comfortably while watching the screens.

Re:Good lighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483956)

Have to agree with this one. That blue lighting was left over from the old SAGE systems circa 1950s and 1960s. Those early displays had a dim amber display and the dim blue light was used to enhance the viewing of those displays. Today what you need is good lighting that doesn't wash out the dispays or create glare. It's also important to match refresh rates to the lighting to eliminate perceived flicker. (A 72Hz screen in a room with 60Hz or 120Hz llighting will always seem to flicker and it makes your eyes tired.) It's the little things.

Re:Good lighting (1)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484094)

I agree about the proper lighting. However, the usual run of LCD flat screen monitors won't show much if any flicker at any refresh rate.

I'll have to disagree about matching refresh rates to power line frequency for CRT monitors, because the match is rarely if ever perfect. The computer monitor's refresh frequency is internally generated and not locked to the line frequency, and you'll end up with a strobe effect that is much worse than if you choose a higher refresh rate like 72 or 80 hz.

My favorite NOC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483586)

http://ccs-pk.chace-school.net/files-2008/at-and-t-noc-pic.jpg

Re:My favorite NOC (0, Offtopic)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483940)

I'm sure glad they come with a convenient, obvious self-destruct mechanism. No way that could go wrong. No sir.

Re:My favorite NOC (1, Informative)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483954)

Ack, I fail - meant to reply to the comment below this: #33483590 [slashdot.org] I hang my head in shame and await down-moderation.

Secure windowless bunker (4, Funny)

RDW (41497) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483590)

Plenty of ideas here:

http://www.villainsource.com/lairs.html [villainsource.com]

Re:Secure windowless bunker (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483868)

You could just post what we are all really looking for and thinking....

Hollowed Out Magma Lair with retractable Mojo Relaxation Center (mood lighting included).

You're bringing in clients? (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483592)

One word: Kegerator [wikipedia.org]

Subscriptions to Huster, Playboy, et al. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483594)

These are print subscriptions, not website subscriptions.

The Red Button (4, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483598)

A big red button with a sign above it that says 'DO NOT PRESS'.

Re:The Red Button (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483674)

And when someone presses it, make another sign ligth up saying "Please do not press this button again."

Re:The Red Button (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483878)

How about a switch with two positions, labeled "magic" and "more magic."

Re:The Red Button (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483920)

And finally it shuts down the company servers...
(for the educational value)

Re:The Red Button (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484038)

And when someone presses it, make another sign ligth up saying "Please do not press this button again."

No, no, no. When you push the button, the sensei has to come out and kick you in the nuts.

Re:The Red Button (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484062)

You're not funny.

Natural light (4, Interesting)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483604)

Well, it sort of goes against 'being in a bunker', but if I was going to work somewhere for many hours, I'd like some natural light.

Of course it's still possible to achieve that using reflective tubing or such like, though it might still undo whatever it is you seek to achieve by being underground.

If it's not possible, I'd suggest paying lots of attention to lighting. And add some real plants too - they'll generate oxygen as well as making the environment seem less bunker like.

Re:Natural light (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483690)

You could always bring the natural light down via solar collectors and fiber optic.

Re:Natural light (1)

deepskybear (915396) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483812)

Well, it sort of goes against 'being in a bunker', but if I was going to work somewhere for many hours, I'd like some natural light.

Of course it's still possible to achieve that using reflective tubing or such like, though it might still undo whatever it is you seek to achieve by being underground.

If it's not possible, I'd suggest paying lots of attention to lighting. And add some real plants too - they'll generate oxygen as well as making the environment seem less bunker like.

I agree that you mush have good lighting. Use full spectrum bulbs to insure a better environment as the light emulates natural sunlight

Re:Natural light (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484040)

I very much doubt that having a few or even a huge amount of plants in the room generates enough oxygen to make any detectable difference in the oxygen level of the air in there. As far as I know, the important things to pay attention to when attempting to improve air quality is ventilation and dust. With sufficient ventilation I doubt that any further increase in oxygen level does anything useful unless you a running a marathon inside the bunker.

Re:Natural light (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484042)

I'd like some natural light.

Of course it's still possible to achieve that using reflective tubing

What kind of nature do you come from anyway?

Only one chance to get it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483612)

And you came to Ask Slashdot? ABORT! ABORT! TOO LATE!!!! *boom*

Water. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483616)

Include a water cooler somewhere. If it's a secure facility, you don't want staff popping out every five minutes for water.

Dim lighting looks incredibly cool. It's also uncomfortable. Resist temptation.

Fuck you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483618)

I know who you are, I seen your house on Google Street View, now I am going to come around, strip you naked and rip off your penis and feed it to your dog!

Re:Fuck you (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483744)

Completely unbelievable troll. I don't own a dog.

Re:Fuck you (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483902)

Bad news... I bought you a dog.

Some things you'll want to do (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483622)

Borrow some ideas from the utility control rooms I've been in. Everyone has and uses their own headsets, I might extend that to keyboards. Keeps people from passing the contagious thing of the week around a confined space when sharing monitoring stations.

Re:Some things you'll want to do (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484110)

I would recommend having a 100% outside air economizer, distance viewing elements to reduce eye strain, and time-of-day lighting to keep body clock normal-- brightest at noon, can even create asubtle artificial east-west fade with wall washers.

Control rooms at CERN (5, Informative)

wuzzeb (216420) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483628)

Here [uslhc.us] is a blog post with some thoughts about the control room design at the LHC. Here is a picture [uslhc.us] of the CMS detector control room for comparison. You might also take a look at pictures [google.com] of the CERN control room for some ideas.

USG Contractor? (3, Insightful)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483630)

I sincerely hope your "client" is not the US Government. The number of contractors I have seen build "CSI" control rooms to try to impress their government counterparts is incredible. Typically these control rooms control very little, or at least, very little worthwhile. At any rate, I would give the advice: form follows function.

Re:USG Contractor? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483786)

So you're saying, make it look like WarGames?

Re:USG Contractor? (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483840)

If you mean the WOPR, then yes :)

Doctor Spenser called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483634)

Don't forget the machine that goes 'Ping!' [blogspot.com] .

If there's one thing I know about bunkers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483646)

it's that it is essential to have the ductwork accessible by anybody who wants to crawl in them. You can't leave that out, it's essential.

Make sure to tell your HVAC guys that you want t

Function over form for staff... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483648)

I've just spent a week in an Equinix facility which on first impression scored high on the wow factor. They used a lot of dark colors lit with red and blue; looks awesome but gave me horrific migraines which none of my usual drugs could help with. Very tiring after long periods and very disorientating, it was playing havoc with my internal clock.

if you need to ask (0, Troll)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483664)

If you need to ask slashdot you're in over your head

ergonomics (1)

Zurk (37028) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483672)

1. lots of game servers with 3d cards on all desktops
2. lots of reading material and dimmable multizone lighting with color temp controls in room and automatic color temp selection from warm to cold white following day/night cycles.
3. tv + blu ray players
4. large wallscreen with cool maps for impressing clients
5. 2 machines on each desk - one for entertainment, the other for continuous display of net stats and ssh
6. central server with helpdesk ticket display and network map with the ability to switch it to the wallscreen
7. multiple zone climate control with controls on the wall easily accessible
8. fridge with healthy snacks + microwave
9. water dispenser
10. cleaning staff for once/day cleaning.

Re:ergonomics (2, Informative)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483988)

I agree with the idea of lighting that follows day/night cycles (unless your guys are working shifts). There's nothing that messes me up worse than going to work (in my windowless laboratory) in the morning and experiencing constant lighting until I walk outside and it's suddenly dark. It messes up my sleep cycles.

Make it Functional, But install a Cool-Mode Button (5, Funny)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483702)

Numerous commentors here point out the error of using cool colored dim lighting for a facility where actual work gets done. But you can have your cake (or Cake, if you are using cool indie rock background music) and eat it too - just have a button that switches the lighting to "cool mode" whenever a visitor comes in. Meaningless but cool looking graphic "screen savers" could also pop up on the screens.

Re:Make it Functional, But install a Cool-Mode But (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483816)

Meaningless but cool looking graphic "screen savers" could also pop up on the screens.

No matter what you do, the people working there are going to be spending at least a little time looking at things that aren't work related, especially on breaks. Make sure there's a "boss key" that flips things back to something that at least looks work related, so they can look busy when visitors come in. Yes, that includes their own managers, but so what? Presumably there's a way to monitor what they're doing, and if they need the boss key when they're not on break, they'll get busted sooner or later, but it's better if you don't have to explain to J. Random guest that it's OK for them to be checking out Slashdot because they're off-duty at the moment.

Environment factors (4, Insightful)

technix4beos (471838) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483710)

Do ensure that it has nearby and adequate washroom facilities. Nothing worse than having to travel up a couple flights of stairs every time personnel has to take care of nature, know what I mean?

Adequate lighting, and ventilation / heating / air conditioning is also something to consider. Nothing worse then working in winter with cold fingers, let me tell you.

I've been NOC for just shy of 3 years now, and I can tell you the environment you work in plays a huge role in how comfortably you handle the workflow. Its nice to focus on the more technical bits such as equipment and infrastructure, monitors, etc, but do not forget that people have to comfortably be there for hours at a time. We do 12 hour shifts here, and the most important consideration would be the temperature and air quality, imho.

Re:Environment factors (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483804)

Depending on the size of the staff and the length of shifts locker rooms might even be in order, a kitchen or kitchenette is reasonable walking distance is a must.

Re:Environment factors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483872)

You also want to add ability for breaks away from the "action". A close but separate break room with peaceful decor and a door (to keep the control room out of the break room and keep the burnt popcorn smell out of the control room. Possibly a live news feed or some other active distraction when in the break room.

Re:Environment factors (5, Informative)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484112)

I worked for a couple of months in doing NOC work, you pick up some basic must-haves really quickly in regards to comfort, I'd like to add them. Temperature and air quality is among the very top priorities for sure, here are a few other points.

Get the best and most comfortable chairs you can find and then get the ones that are even better. People will be sitting in these 24/7, you need the best you can get or they'll get worn down in mere months, both chairs and people. Full range of adjustability is essential, as is full back and lumbar support. Look at the seats in taxis, cop cars, any sort of car where people do long shifts, look at long-haul trucks if you can. Taxis where I live are almost uniformly Mercedes-Benz or Volvo, partly because of their excellent seat ergonomics.

Get people out of the chairs. I know this sounds silly considering you've just bought amazing chairs, but give people options. Exercise balls, kneeling chairs etc., let people mix it up so they aren't stuck in an ordinary sitting position for hours on end. Some basic exercise equipment is good too, doesn't have to be anything more fancy than some wall-mounted bars etc., just to let people stretch a bit.

Quick access to toilets and kitchen(ette). This type of work demands as little downtime as possible. Make sure the kitchen has at least two microwave ovens, depending on the number of people who'll be working there, a good meal is essential to getting through a night shift and even the slight inconvenience of having to wait a bit longer can be amplified by being sleepy and in a job where you deal with very stressful situations on a daily basis. Night shifts have been shown to have a correlation with heart disease and possibly cancer. Don't make people wait too for their food as well :-) The place where I worked had lots of people doing 9-5 jobs as well and the cafeteria always kept well-stocked vending machines with sandwiches and the hot dish of the day for the night shifters. It was highly appreciated.

Speaking of the kitchen, get really good coffee. No scratch that, get great coffee and reliable high-capacity coffee makers. These people will suck down black coffee like you wouldn't believe. Keep the fridge(s) well-stocked with ice-cold Coke (or whatever caffeinated soft drink they like) for the non-coffee drinkers.

I cannot stress this enough: Have fresh fruit available at all times. This was an absolutely life saver for me. You haven't had a tasty apple until you've bitten into a fresh, ripe Golden Delicious at 4:30 in the morning after a long nights stressful work. Keeps people from gorging on chips and other unhealthy snack foods as well.

Lastly, let people have their distractions. We used fancy multi-monitor setups where we could put just about any system we monitored on whichever monitor we wanted, very slick. I can't remember what they called it, but it seemed to work pretty well. My point is that the universal setup seemed to be one monitor for desktop stuff, one for TV (most people had 24/7 news on) and the rest for monitoring etc.. The TV feed was brilliant, during the downtime you could catch up on the news and so on, it helped you get through the boring parts of a night shift.

I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of stuff, but these things stood out in my mind as the most important.

Comfort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483712)

Comfort, comfort, comfort...

Proper chairs. Set up at the proper height, then adjust all the screens from there.

Good lights. Stay away from fluorescent, anything that flickers. Don't make it to harsh, whatever it is. Nice and soft.

Plants would be good. Things that make the experience not painful after the 6th hour.

Get help from pros (5, Funny)

Catbus (699258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483730)

I would contract with a design/build firm that specializes in these facilities. You don't want to do this by the seat of your pants relying on Slashdot advice.

Careful What You Wish For (5, Interesting)

archmcd (1789532) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483736)

My company invested millions of dollars into a central monitoring facility, with a large video wall driven by Crestron equipment. The idea was the video wall could display news/weather alongside alarms/outages in real time, with geographic mapping capabilities. Workstations were quad displays on adjustable motorized desks which sat atop a raised platform for simple network runs. A large executive "war room" style conference room was built with a glass wall overlooking the platform and video wall believed to be useful in the event of some catastrophic failure. All other staff sat in cubicles surrounding the platform with glass cube walls anywhere that would otherwise obstruct the view of the platform/video wall. A secure mantrap was put in place to restrict access to the facility. Dedicated bathrooms were installed with showers in the monitoring area in case critical staff were quarantined for extended periods of time.

It was impressive when it was built, but within a couple years, the video wall has been dismantled and parts sold off due to its impracticality. The right software was never found to perform the type of "geographic" monitoring conceived, partly due to bureaucracy. Network redundancy was overlooked, which made the monitoring facility itself non-functional during an outage. The facility lacked appropriate backup generators and UPS to keep the facility running during a thunderstorm. The platform desks required too much real estate and allowed no room for growth, so they have been replaced by cubicles. The secure mantrap was an inconvenience for upper management, so the inner door was disabled, defeating the mantrap. The quad displays ironically obstructed the view of the video wall when it was still in place, and did not fit in the cubicles when they were installed, so these were reduced to 2. All critical staff were sent home to telecommute because they took up too much real-estate required for day-to-day operations, and it made more sense to not have critical staff in a single central location anyway.

The point is, don't get too caught up in building 'CTU' from 24. The right monitoring software platform makes all the difference, as does intelligent network redundancy, telephony and backup power.

For Entertainment, Make Sure You've Got (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483738)

Medal Of Honor [youtube.com] to give your control room zombies a break from the tedium of
monitoring the proletariat.

Yours In Minsk,
K. Trout

Re:For Entertainment, Make Sure You've Got (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484098)

This video contains content from FOX News Network, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

Seriously, man, FUCK copyright.

Some experience (2, Informative)

casavet (152074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483742)

See http://www.tbcconsoles.com for a few ideas.
Chairs - Haven't found anything to beat the Herman Miller Aeron yet.
If you're placing PC's in the control room, beware of heating and cooling requirements. Most common mistake I've seen.
Second most common mistake, way over-spec'ing the AV system for the videowall. Keep it modest, in keeping with your actual requirements and conop, with room to grow.
I like the single tier monitor approach. Get monitors above other monitors makes for an ergonomically uncomfortable experience.
Do not, under any circumstances, cheap out on the monitors. Buy decent. Voice of experience here, cheap has the potential to kill your project dead

Its going to all be for show. (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483750)

Lastly, we will be showing it to our clients

In other words its going to all be for show.

Big projected screens showing something management finds important to brag about but the employees will never glance at.

All individuality quashed, no pics of the family etc.

My advice, in all honesty, is to build two. One that actually works, and one that is a star trek mock up. Whenever they did marketing picture shows they hired college age models to "staff" our network management center anyway, so non-operational equipment is not exactly a problem for the models to pose with.

What (1, Insightful)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483768)

the fuck?

difficult choice (1)

DMoylan (65079) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483770)

windowless bunker or happy place. choose one.

Design for changes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483792)

Seriously the most obivous thing that stroke me in that question was that you need to get it right. Why ? Try to use items that can be relocated or used in different ways without spending a fortune. After 1 year of operation they will know what they want different.
And of course make it a nice place to be in.

Plan for fast depreciation (4, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483796)

I used to know someone who had worked for an alarm monitoring company. She said the chairs and other furniture were used 24 hours a day, yet the accountants were depreciating them like ordinary office furniture. As a result, the furniture was not replaced often enough and was falling apart and uncomfortable. Make sure to plan on fast depreciation for your furniture.

steveha

Huh? (1)

Tigersmind (1549183) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483798)


"secure windowless bunker"
"many hours at a time".
"'happy' place"
"ergonomically sound"
"would be nice if it was 'cool'"

Dont do drugs folks.

Much harder than it looks in the movies (5, Insightful)

petrilli (568256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483820)

So, a couple things to think about:

1. How much money do you really have? Lots of people think they have money, but run out when it comes to all the details.
2. Do you want flash, or functionality? The two are sometimes complementary, but often one trumps the other.
3. How many people will staff? What's the schedule? This helps you figure out workstation configurations.
4. Are you putting multiple tiers in the same room? This is "best practice" if you do it right.
5. Are you handling customer calls directly? Do you deal with customers?

Basically, you need to figure out a lot of goals. A true "global" NOC can cost $50M easily for a telecom or comparable organization.

I've been a big fan of Barco for large projectors, and their IP-based solution is quite powerful. Recently, I rolled out a "public safety" SOC (security operations center) with 8 SXGA+ rear-projection displays. The largest I've worked on was 40+ of that style of display. Your garden-variety projector isn't cut out to handle this kind of duty-cycle. They're not cheap, but they're designed to operate 24x7x365, and many models have multiple lamps, etc. so that you can service them while they're online. So here's a few more things to think about:

* What goes on the "big screen" has to be useful. It must be grokable in a very short period of time. If you can't look at it for 2 seconds and get a good idea of what's going on, it's too complicated.
* Multiple displays per operations person
* Operational "graphs" that show overall statistics that matter to the people working, not to management.
* Good task lighting. Good lighting period is everything. Pay a real designer to do this.
* Good seating. We have let operations people pick chairs that fit their needs. Expect to spend $800-1k/person on seating.
* Sound deadening/management. NOCs get loud, and managing the acoustics is important to make sure that people can "think" and they can interact with one another.
* Ticketing is everything. Look at systems that are available commercially and for free. Consider writing your own if needed. If the system is streamlined to your own business, it will always be an impediment to getting the job done, which means people won't use it. If they don't use it, lots of knowledge is lost and post-mortems are more difficult.

Also, a few things that seem superfluous, but ended up being critical in some places I've worked (not all these were at the same place):

* Virtualized desktops (think RDP, X11, etc.) so that people can move and maintain their setup
* Color-shifting lighting to compensate for normal rhythms of people on weird shifts. Turns out green is effective after lunch at helping people maintain focus. This isn't cheap, but it sure does have a big impact.
* Keep your customers OUT OF THE NOC. A glass wall into the NOC is fine, but actually letting them in is distracting, and depending, can come with legal issues around privacy, HIPAA, etc. Best to keep them at a distance.
* Before you let customers see the NOC, you warn people. We had a blinking lighting strip under the displays that was linked into the Crestron system so that you couldn't flip the LCD-glass for 10 seconds to give NOC operators a warning. You don't want customers seeing people picking their nose. :)

Finally, as nice as good facilities are, if you don't have the process and people, it's useless. People people people people. Good people create good processes. Promote from within, and develop a strategy to give people a career path. Otherwise, you'll burn people out, and get huge turnover. That sucks for everyone.

Re:Much harder than it looks in the movies (3, Interesting)

petrilli (568256) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483882)

Oh a few more thoughts:

1. Buy high end task furniture (Haworth, Herman-Miller, etc.) but buy it "used". It's 1/2 or less the price, and often you can get the used high-end stuff for less than commodity new.
2. Get a telephone system that doesn't suck. This is harder than you might think. Today, I'd build something with Asterix/VOIP integrated with a customer database to do some real-time CTI. In the past, I've used Aspect successfully as well. Cisco's VOIP gear is nice, but overpriced.
3. Everyone gets their own . Whether it be a headset, keyboard, etc. Trust me, it makes sense.
4. Lockers outside the NOC for staff. Make them nice, tall and big, and nobody shares.
5. Plan for actual breaks from operations. Nobody can stare at a computer screen that many hours and stay alert.

There's a million more details.

Not my area (2, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483822)

But my first somewhat obvious thought would be to build a very detailed list of what has to happen in the room, then use that to drive your design.

Positioning of people I would also imagine is quite important.. which groups of users need to communicate with each other.. who will be using the video wall.. who is going to be making the most noise (is someone going to be on the phone every 10 minutes.. if so a separate sound proof cage might be in order)

Things like white boards might also be a good idea. For all the high tech collaboration solutions out there, I've found nothing beats a whiteboard for figuring something out or just tracking status of a short term issue.

I'd also watch the cool factor stuff. A lot of the stuff that looks really neat on TV actually sucks in real life. Moody blue lighting for instance is depressing and hard on the eyes. Maybe you could have some kind of "holywood mode" switch or something for when people are being toured through.. though that is a little extreme.

Finally I'd say good quality monitors and the most comfortable chairs that the budget allows.

Re:Not my area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484004)

Things like white boards might also be a good idea. For all the high tech collaboration solutions out there, I've found nothing beats a whiteboard for figuring something out or just tracking status of a short term issue.

Black-boards beat white-boards. White-board markers easily fail to work, chalk never does. Black-boards are a little harder to clean, but window-washing equipment does it nicely.

Great Hazards (2, Insightful)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483824)

In such a situation the greatest hazard will probably be from your own company executives. Establish a great monitoring process and it is carved in granite that some executive will add tasks that take attention away from the primary task. Reports leap to mind.
                    The second hazard will be from employees that man the monitoring station. They can become disgruntled or even be paid to do foul deeds. Good encrypted backups kept off site may help as will a monitor that watches the people that man the station.
                    It may help if you disallow electronic gizmos of all types from being brought to work in that monitoring station. Also tools that could open a computer case and install a USB card make it clear that you need to have absolute control of all items brought into the room.
                    Beyond those factors have you considered Faraday shielding?

Treadmill Desks (2, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483828)

I'm serious. If people are going to be there for long periods of time, they should get a little exercise.
I'm not talking about running, just a leisurely ~1mph walk.
Standing and walking are probably the absolute best options for maintaining good ergonomics.

The office furniture company Steelcase makes one. [steelcase.com]

I'm not saying to ban chairs, keep them as backup and for people who physically can't stand for extended periods of time.

From my experience (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483834)

From my experience from working in the control room of a nuclear plant there are a couple of design elements that make life easier. First, any controls and monitors should be separated by an aisle where you have desks and computers. Additionally, if you have operators and supervisors in the same room, a tiered design is helpful. Think of it sort of like a semi-circle, with the controls and monitors at the lowest level, the operators desks and workstations at a higher level, and the supervisors in the back. This allows people to come into the control room to talk to the supervisors without bothering the operators, while the supervisors can still see what is going on. If a casualty happens then the operators will descend to the bottom aisle by the controls and the supervisors will descend to watch the operators and read the procedures. Management can then come in and observe from the level the supervisors previously were.

Second, it is useful to have mimic boards for complicated systems. This means you have diagrams connecting electrical busses and breakers or pumps and piping on the control panel itself.

Third, alarms need to be designed so that they can be quickly silenced, yet allow other alarms to come in. Preferably this should be over the controls where everyone can see.

Fourth, look for items where people can make mistakes. Color coded labels on your controls, monitors, etc., as well as logically positioning them can prevent mistakes. Don't just ask for suggestions. Do dry run evolutions and see where design changes can help. Build a mockup and run it with a crew.

Finally, don't screw up the HVAC design or soundproofing design. It will piss off your operators.

Stuff you need (1)

dgun (1056422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483848)

Exercise equipment. Personal workspaces for each 24/7 staffer. A schedule that is not completely idiotic. A decent break room. A big red button with a sign that says "NEVER PUSH THIS" but doesn't actually do anything. The red button that actually does something should be several layers deep in locked cabinets. A box within a cabinet within a safe should work. Seriously, the first few things I mentioned should be considered. I speak from experience.

Opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483850)

my list... my opinions...

1. Don't make it all dark(overstated and redundant here).
2. Give your people some sort of privacy if you don't want high turnover. This could be a simple privacy screen.
3. If people have to talk on a phone to multiple customers at once, make sure that you have a strategy to keep the sound from bouncing everywhere.
4. Nice chairs... really nice
5. Watch out for cloth chairs(they absorb spills)
6. Keyboards, mice, etc become gross. I honestly would assign people these items.

Screen position (1)

slaw_dawg (1894322) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483852)

I know why companies like to put big impressive screens mounted to the wall or ceilings, its for show, makes the room look kinda like mission control at nasa or something. But heres the difference. The big screens up top are for information that is not really something you need to stare at constantly. You can glance up, get what you need and put your head down and continue work. Please do your employees a favor and put their respective important screens they will be spending most of their time looking at, down at sitting eye level. It greatly reduces neck strain and headaches. A high back chair is worth its weight in gold, these crappy rolling chairs with about a square foot of back support just do not cut it. After 8 hours of my back being halfway supported, I will hate that chair, and go find a better one. This usually leads to other unhappy co-workers asking "where did you get that from?" and eventually we will find your comfy chair, and during the graveyard shift, yours might go missing. Save yourself the trouble, just go ahead and get the chairs that fully support back and shoulders. Its worth the extra money. (get a few extra too, they tend to break) Carpet is great for making a room a bit quieter Matte screens reduce glare and eye strain a bit The white buzzing fluorescent lights overhead suck, but you can hide them a bit behind light diffusers, or make the light bounce off other surfaces, and it makes a big difference. YMMV, and good luck!

Sod! (1)

Beardydog (716221) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483866)

Natural lighting has been mentioned, and I second it, especially the fake windows... but I would also lay sod down (and maybe add a few grow lights to be switched on at night). Not because it has any benefit. I just think it would be neat. Also, some quiet fans on one side of the room that only blow occasionally... hidden behind a bunch of potted trees.

Re:Sod! (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484136)

How about real 'windows'?

Have a fake window that goes to a vent/shaft to the roof or a real window, where sunlight is directed in through a series of mirrors.

Implement whatever security mechanisms you like to make sure no animals or anything else can intrude the shafts

Oh yeah, and don't use flickering fluorescents or other lighting with extreme brightness or extreme color temperatures

Music Industry Inspiration? (1)

AdamPee (1243018) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483906)

My first idea as an audio guy would be to take some cues from the music industry in their control room designs. Sure, maybe you don't need a client couch for hanging out, but you should be able get everywhere you want in the room by rolling chair (minus if you have to dive behind screens/machines to get things fixed, but even that should be accessible), favor more, smaller, warmer lights over florescent (on dimmers, if you really want them to be as comfortable as they want).

Physical security control software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483908)

You might want to look at Proximex Surveillint as a command and control package (www.proximex.com) for the various physical security systems.

Multiple Computers and Synnergy for Videowall (3, Insightful)

Little Brother (122447) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483918)

You can purchase some really high end equipment to manage multiple monitors on a videowall, but you shouldn't. Use standard PC level hardware (or lower end rackmount depending on space requirements) with no more than two display cards each. Drive all your monitors separately then tie them together with Synnergy. You can still administer them all from a single workstation, fairly seamlessly, but you don't have a single point of failure, and you've probably saved hundreds of dollars. The videowall systems can also run some light duty servers especially system monitoring. (I like Xymon over Nagios, but it depends on what you want to do with it.)

So far as the monitors themselves, purchase flat-panel HDTV's. They are likely to be cheaper than similarly sized monitors, and you won't want greater resolution than an HDTV can handle for a video wall anyway. This gives you the added benefit of being able to tie in training videos, or third shift entertainment on to one or more screens if needed. Also, if one of your videowall servers goes down right before clients come to view the installation, you can quickly switch those monitors over to CNN, CNBC or another relevant channel.

The workstation tables should be glass or some other surface that can support either dry erase or grease-pen writing. Being able do simple notes on your desk will reduce scratch paper usage and make maximum use of available areas. Glass cubicle walls will cut down on noise like a cubicle would, but does not give as much of the feeling of being in a box as standard cubicles. They allow unobstructed view of the video-wall and you can write on them with grease pens.

Have more workstations than you need, and do not tie people their workstations. If someone wants to claim one that is fine, but some people will really like being able to log off, walk across the room, and log back on. This will also allow you to bring in off-shift workers when shit hits the fan.

As a security measure, get a dot-matrix printer on your firewall. Feed tail -f /var/log/authlog directly to it. If anyone gets in that shouldn't they will NOT be able to erase their tracks.

Put in a breakroom or break area that still has a view of the common videowall. When your people are taking a break during downtime, they should still be able to see if it is suddenly no longer downtime.

For the love of God (and your staff) put in a drink fridge or soda fountain and a coffee pot.

WTF? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33483934)

Why don't you do your job and quit trying to pass the buck onto /. where you will just waste our time with your lack of imagination and incompetence. All you have to do is put yourself into the position and think of every eventuality -- sort of what you are asking us to do for you. Gawd the lack of hardworking young people these days ... hmm I need to look good shamming out on this project I've been assigned: BINGO! I'll post it on /.!!! PROFIT!!! Then I won't have to do any research -- they will do it for me -- and I won't have to even think for myself!! And cool be damned!! WHO GIVES A FSCK IF IT LOOKS COOL TO SOME DORK IN ADVERTISING???

Underground happy place (1)

GreenTom (1352587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483972)

Well, the best example I can think of that combines "secure underground bunker" and "happy place" is the title facility from Dollhouse [wikipedia.org] . Think underground zen spa. Honestly, that space could very easily be modified to be an amazing and impressive control center--it even has the mezzanine monitoring section, but might not suit the Star Trek screen.

Don't fuck this up. (4, Funny)

OnePumpChump (1560417) | more than 3 years ago | (#33483984)

If this doesn't end up at least vaguely resembling the bridge from either the TOS or TNG Enterprise, you're FIRED.

ESPN (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484002)

Don't forget the full ESPN package. In HD, games look awesome on a 20 x 35 - foot screen.

Just to be on the safe side, make a big screen shot of an all-nodes-green Net Manager layout or whatever you use, and keep an image viewer running with that image handy. (I had a previous employer that actually did put up a screen shot of all-OK Net View or whatever, for VIP visits.)

get ideas from swedish ISP Banhof's serverbunker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484010)

Check this URL for an (swedish) article for the swedish ISP's serverbunker Banhof. They do have some great and cool solutions, even to make it un-bunky feeling.
http://www.sweclockers.com/artikel/6109-sweclockers_besoker_bahnhof

Bathrooms, Janitorial Services & Housekeeping (5, Insightful)

turtleshadow (180842) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484012)

24x7 ops in a confined space that you want to actually work inside means caring about the two things overlooked by both IT and Management.

1) Human waste
Unless able/willing to get time outside the tank, people _are_ going to: snack,drink coffee & water, etc at their stations.
The bathroom (mens and womens) is going where? Outside the double tier biometric locked doors past the guard?
In a crisis or crunch the time use for bathrooms actually goes up as more coffee and crap food (fatty, sugary, glutten, etc) are ingested & a trip to the sewage system is required.

Also bathroom facilities need to be built with those things necessary for those with disabilities; with obestity / diabetes and those with really bad digestion (IE get a really good odour neutralizaing vent system) Also some sound damping is necessary. After a shift change would you want to hear 14 flushes in a row at your station?

If you want a real good idea of how human smells take over a confined space take Greyhound to anywhere on a trip longer than 8 hours.
After a few hours you'll be begging for fresh air & a decent restroom as well. You can figure out the max time people can hold it as would need to if they pass outside the security areas of your ops center.

2) Housekeeping & Janitorial
How are and just who will clean the bathrooms as well as the control room area?

The guys & gals making so little as opposed to the IT guys, but do the really important grunt work during the night to porter the bathroom with their cleaning carts and supplies.
Really, although the janitors have a key to everywhere they typically will block doors open. The cleaning team is so "trusted" it isn't questioned about bypass of security doors.
If Solid Snake could hide in a janitors cart not a cardboard box - he'd go anywhere.

Additionally these are also the people that are going to empty the waste bins, recycle bins, spritz down empty cubes/stations with disinfectant / de oderizers.
My former company had a policy: if techs are on a station that station will not be cleaned.
You have to have some sort of desk rotation to move out your personnel (that monitor now covered by a different station) so the area can be cleaned adequately.

If this is not done you deserve the thick stank that will descend upon your control room.

If your running really critical Ops: A HR policy on proper hygiene and showers should also a clause in the personnel contract. Everyone laughs until you have to term a tech for stinking to much.

As a bonus I'll add that my experience is that the AC design will never be adequate nor will the heating. It will be visited often by AC techs in the first 5 years until everyone gives up hope.
The failure is that AC is typically the retail mall design of a large scale dumping of cold dry air into a large volume of space and somebody's desk (hopefully not yours) is just under where this happens. Hot and cold spots are intractable in a large open floor plan arrangement.

I know this one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484014)

I worked in a Comm Center for 2 years, and now support it as the IT manager. Here's a few key points....

1. Space is important. The only thing that sucks more than working with some one your not too fond of is having to rub elbows with them for the whole shift. Every position should have enough space so that the person sitting there feels like they have their own workstation. Along this same theme, every position needs it's own phone and computer. Don't expect people to share.

2. Lighting is paramount. Avoid direct lighting if at all possible. Idealy you would like to have lights on the floor that bounce off the ceiling, and they should be dimmable. If you really have a decent budget, you can two two sets, and regular set and an off color like red, blue, or green. Often times at night, the best set up is dim ambiant light with workstation mounted dimmable, and movable worklights.

3. Depending on how much communications are going on, headsets are ideal.

4. Ventalation. After thinking about it, rubbing elbows with some one your not fond of isn't as bad as smelling them.

5. Shoot for standardized equipment, as opposed to complicated propitery ones. Those consoles may look real nifty until you go to replace the workstations in 5 years and realize you need blamo brand brackets that you need to order from Bob in Cleveland for 90 bucks a pop.

6. Less is more. When it's all said and done, you will be happier with a bare bones high quality desk/workstation combination than a complicated console set up you will need to tear into later.

Look to a railway control room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484020)

We just refurbished the subway control room here in Brussels, to improve ergonomy. Things not to miss for you :
- split desks with height adjustable desktops : the half with the 2x4 screens and the half with keyboards/mice/phones/... individually adjustable with a motorized system equipped with some memory function. Each operator adjusts it differently to feel good, but if this adjustment has to be done again each day they will not adjust it after 1 week and work in unconfortable positions
- super-ergonomic seats, comparable to a car seat (with many adjustable things)
- let make the lighting of the room by a light&lighting specialist : and yes "false windows" with an "artificial sun" behind them is a pretty good idea
- this specialist must work with the designer which chosse the colors of the walls
- acoustics have also to be taken into account
- organize the workstations by taking into account who must often communicate with who, to avoid continuous usage of a phone to talk to the colleague which ist at 3 meters of you but just 1 meter out-of-sight. A "big staircase" design can be an answer
- put some "green", this is good for the brain
- don't overload the sight of the operators : more things you see more your brain queues all this mess and less you have CPU cycles to do productive things

Be human (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484034)

Design it for humans, that means put the hardware as much as possible in another room or out of the way, use naturalistic colors and basically don't try and make it look "cool" since nobody really wants to work in a server room.

I'd pay close attention to indoor air quality, ergonomics and lighting.

If you can pipe in natural light, that'd be great, but if not, indirect lighting, non-fluorescent full-spectrum.

Also, make sure your software has meaningful alarms, there shouldn't be sound except if it is actually urgent. Nobody wants to have crap beeping all the time and stupid alerts mean that people ignore them or disable them (e.g. Gulf oil spill).

For a pleasent environment (1)

gagol (583737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484064)

Indirect lighting and plants will add to the atmosphere, do not forget the little fridge for the beer and a smoke lounge.

Make sure to include a few showers. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484066)

Unlike Scientists, you nerds stink, so make sure to install a few showers and make it mandatory to shower at least once a day for anyone in the control room.

Be practical (1)

ISurfTooMuch (1010305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484068)

Look, you need to be practical here. There's a good reason control rooms like the one in 24 don't exist in the real world: they don't work. Forget the video wall and just make sure that your employees have access to what they need on their own workstations. You want this thing to be functional in a crisis situation, right? Then that means that the facility may need to run on backup power, and a bunch of huge monitors are going to use a lot of that power. Not to mention that that expensive video wall is going to quickly become a white elephant, and then something on it is going to fail. At that point, management is going to know the whole thing was pointless, and they aren't going to want to shell out more money to repair it.

If you want this to work, then focus more on getting your employees comfortable and functional furniture. Dual-monitor systems work well for displaying critical information, provided that you get desks big enough to accommodate them and other needed equipment. As for employee comfort, make sure they have an adequate break area that includes a large fridge, microwave, sink, water cooler, and table. If you don't want visitors to see it, just use partitions to hide it. And if you feel the need to make it look "cool", then get everything in black and/or stainless steel. And if you want to give them something fun to do, then throw in some old arcade games. If management is worried about these being a big time-waster, then make them run on tokens, and give each employee a certain number of them per day, week, etc.

The thing is, you want a facility that will actually be useful to you. Build that, and you will have made a good investment, and, believe me, clients will take more notice of that than of something that looks good but isn't functional.

Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484078)

Don't forget security guards stationed all around. They should all be female (and not built like J. Reno..), and dressed like Lara Croft. I mean, this is *important*.

Hey, it works for Muammar Khaddafi!

A bunch of Aura workstations (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33484106)

As in these [poetictech.com]

Have a look at what Space Agencies have done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484114)

I am sure that NASA, JPL and ESA/ESOC have implemented some nice ideas in their control rooms.

Here are some pictures from the ESOC MRC http://www.google.de/images?q=ESOC%20MCR&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=de&tab=wi , and NASA http://www.google.de/images?um=1&hl=de&tbs=isch:1&sa=1&q=NASA+control+room&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai= , and JPL http://www.google.de/images?um=1&hl=de&tbs=isch:1&sa=3&q=JPL+control+room&btnG=Bilder+suchen .

Space Agencies like the above are also used to host media upon launch events, so their launch main control rooms are on par with that need.

Do Not Want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484130)

You do not want any visitors in a live production control room, period. Same goes for server rooms. All these areas are off-limits for visitors.
Set up one fake control room for show, with fake data on the screens, if you need to offer a visitor tour.
But do not lead anyone that is not part of your staff into a room where screens might show confidential client data (and if it's only the internal IP range and network layout of a client)!
Also, the more people are in that room, the higher the chance that someone pushes the wrong button at the wrong time, distracts staff members from their duties, etc. That's a clear DO NOT WANT.

And even if you have to bring some external techie in, say, because the A/C broke down, designate one staff member to monitor her/him at all time. One staff member per external techie. And no, that's not a task these staff members should do in addition to their regular shift. When they're monitoring a person, they're monitoring that person only, no one else and no systems, and no taking customer phone calls, either. Yes, monitoring them means literally following them to the bathroom stall door and back, or outside if they want to have a smoke (while they're outside, it's OK if you monitor them through the glass door, or lacking one, from a few feet away, so you can avoid the second-hand smoke*), and back. No matter how well you know them, no matter how often they've been there before.

*Even if you are a smoker yourself: No, you shouldn't smoke with them. Just like you shouldn't chat with them while they're working. It's fine to invite the techie to a cup of company-paid coffee after doing a good job (or if there's a longer waiting period while a device spins up or down), but keep the chatter to a minimum.

If you think I'm taking this too serious, then why did you get the idea you needed a bunker-like control room? It's not safer than the regular office if you allow visitors who might accientally spill their bottle of $SOFTDRINK over some expensive equipment (maybe the control panel for your redundant power supply) and take out half of your control room with that. NB: If it takes out the entire control room, it seems you had an avoidable single point of failure there. ;-)

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