Unified operations centers

An operations center is a structured environment that serves as the primary workspace for monitoring, directing and coordinating operations activities, including identifying and responding to situations that require specific and immediate non-routine attention. There are many types of operations centers, and most are familiar with these three types: Security Operations Center (SOC), Network Operations Center (NOC) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Traditionally, organizations have separate operations centers for each type. This was a natural occurrence, as in the past, most information displays and some communications capabilities were hard-wired and inflexible - resulting in the dedication of physical space to particular functions.

Thus, two negative effects of multiple operations centers have been largely unavoidable: the duplication of physical and electronic supporting infrastructure, and the isolation of information between siloed operations centers.

However, today, computer-based information and communications capabilities provide real-time flexibility. Any information or communication can be routed anywhere, and rules-based systems can automate initial routing and handling for time-critical evaluation and response. The factors that have necessitated infrastructure duplication and functional isolation for operations centers in the past no longer exist. It is now possible to have unified operations centers, where two or more operations functions are combined.

Panduit World Headquarters

One leading corporation is intimately familiar with operations center infrastructure: Panduit (www.Panduit.com). Founded in 1955 in Chicago, Illinois, Panduit now has more than 3,000 employees in office, manufacturing and distribution facilities across the globe.

When Panduit's expanding business called for the construction of a new World Headquarters building, its executives realized that they had an opportunity to eliminate the typical duplication and isolation of separate operations centers, by combining their SOC and NOC into a single workspace that they dubbed the U-OC2 - a dual-function Unified Operations Center (Security/Safety Operations and Network Operations).

"The concept of unified operations was instinctive thinking for us - a natural extension of the Unified Physical Infrastructure (UPI) approach that shapes our product design and development work, and also defined the design for our new headquarters facility," says Jeffrey Woodward, Senior Manager, Global EHS & Security at Panduit.

UPI is an architecture that integrates hardware and software products with design principles to create an integrated infrastructure that aligns and harmonizes critical building systems - power, communication, computing, security and control (such as lighting, HVAC, and factory automation). These are collectively referred to as physical infrastructure systems under the UPI approach, because all are equally required to optimize the specific operational environments of a given building or facility.

The convergence of applications and communications onto a unified IP-based network infrastructure is a common trend among physical infrastructure systems. This means, among other things, that their data can be shared across the spectrum of applications for improved operational awareness and response. The objectives are efficiency and operational cost-savings, as well as higher levels of system and organizational performance.

For example, lighting and air conditioning can follow building occupancy, as well as the arming and disarming of alarm zones. Phones, network switches and other electronic devices can be automatically powered down or put into their hibernation state, to reduce power consumption when their use is not needed. Emergency responses can be tailored in real-time based on building occupancy and building physical conditions. (See "Connected Buildings and Security Systems" - page 22 - for two videos that present more detail on the operational and technological context for security in connected buildings, and how this impacts the value that security technologies can provide to the business.)

Unifying Operations

"It makes sense to co-locate the security, safety, network and communications operations functions, as there are many situations - emergency and non-emergency - that warrant close coordination and information sharing," explains Marc Naese, Panduit's Director of IT Infrastructure and Operations. Thus, the SOC and NOC functions were combined into a single operations room, with a door to the adjacent EOC room.

James Connor, CEO of security technology and operations consultancy N2N Secure (www.N2NSecure.com), worked with Panduit to help qualify technologies for deployment in the new facility and as the lead consultant for the design of the security systems and new security operations model. "We know that information technology and physical security technology are both advancing very rapidly," Connor says. "Operations center design is now very different than in previous years. Technology infrastructure has to take into account the arrival of new products and system capabilities every year. The fast pace of organizational change also requires flexibility in the deployment of network and security technologies."

The functions of an operations center room no longer need to be filled with purpose-built "ops center" equipment. Information and control functions are "electronicized" through information systems and network technologies, enabling computer workstations and video displays to provide a wide variety of human interaction, as seen in Figure 1 (above).

Design Approach

With IP-based monitoring, information, communications and control systems in place in facilities, a multi-function operations center can provide monitoring, coordination, evaluation and response functions based on how the center is staffed and how intelligent rules-based systems are deployed to support detection, evaluation, response and escalation. When a maintenance operator logs onto a workstation, maintenance applications and functions can be called up automatically. Some stations can be dedicated to a specific function simply by staff assignment. Other workstations can provide ad hoc functions based on situational needs. With this kind of flexibility, where does design start and where does it end?

"Vision and executive sponsorship, and C-suite buy-in, were very important to us at the earliest stage of conception," Woodward says. The operations center initiative was a part of Panduit's larger "Connected Building Team," the concept team for the project. "Basically, everyone within Panduit had a stake in what that building was going to be and how it would operate. Alignment with corporate governance and regulatory requirements was important."

"We also asked, 'What do you want to have happen when someone accesses the building?' That could mean turning on lighting in your office, air conditioning and your VoIP phone and network data port. We identified the ROI in each case, and related things back to risk management. This helped us make very acceptable business cases."

Another example of accounting for stakeholder interests is the establishment of service level agreements (SLAs) between Security and stakeholder groups. For example, an SLA regarding security video data would specify the length of retention for recorded video data, as well as the procedure for data destruction, and would also address access to data.

Pilot projects were used to evaluate technology. Evaluation criteria included business values beyond security, such as partnership and marketing value. For example, Cisco is a very strong business partner with Panduit, so whether or not a security product carried the Cisco brand was an evaluation factor.

Woodward also discusses the strategic elements of the vision: World-class facilities, innovation, collaboration and sustainability. "Our corporate vision includes providing world-class facilities for our employees. Innovation is a key strategy for our company and for many companies, as is having collaborative environments that help foster it," he says. "Panduit facilities are designed to reduce their environmental impact, and so our building initiatives had to reflect that."

Decision Methodology

Panduit defined a decision making process, to ensure that stakeholder interests were fairly represented. Figure 2 (page 22) shows the decision methodology developed by Intelligent Buildings Inc. (www.IntelligentBuildings.com) included in that process and used to evaluate elements of the building initiative, including security technology.

There are three rating scales to the method - Essential, Business Case and Strategy - and each are rated 1 through 10. Panduit established a go/no-go scoring level of 15. If an item's total score for all three scales hit 15 or higher, the item was included in the building plan. If not, it was dropped. Items like physical access control were given an Essential rating of 10. (Additional details on EBS scoring are available online in the expanded version of this article.)

Key Success Points

Woodward and Naese summarized the key points for a successful building project:

1. Start as early as possible.
2. Ensure that all stakeholders are represented on concept teams, so that nothing is forgotten.
3. Revise the conventional construction process - typically, IT comes in last; now, IT and the infrastructure elements must be addressed very early.
4. Account for legacy technologies by envisioning their future migration to IP networks, but including their conventional cable runs in the existing cabling pathways and patch panels. That way, when the business climate dictates the need to migrate, all required physical infrastructure elements are already deployed as part of the common infrastructure.
5. Realize that early design decisions heavily influence success.
6. Be sure to look well past "Day 1" to what you want the building to be 10 or 15 years from now. It can be easier to build some things in the infrastructure up-front, rather than pay for changes done later.

Return on Investment

"The payback for the $615,000 incremental costs for our U-OC2 and EOC capabilities is 2.6 years, which fits our corporate guidelines," Woodward says. "For example, instead of using fencing around the building campus as we have done with all of our other facilities, we're using video analytics with roof-mounted cameras. This is a significant cost savings, as well as a visual enhancement to the property."

Adds Connor: "Unified physical infrastructure allowed for several additional ROI enhancements, which resulted in a positive ROI in both hard equipment and soft operations cost reductions." (Additional details on ROI are available online in the expanded version of this article.)

Driving Interoperability

Networked technologies provide opportunities for systems interaction that expand the ROI for security technologies and other technologies.

For example, a system can push video and alarm messages out to receptionist phones, when appropriate. Visitor management systems can alert a receptionist when an escorted visitor's sponsor has left the building and not returned yet. Conversely, when a receptionist has momentarily stepped away from the reception desk, phone and video displays can instruct a visitor to call the U-OC2, so that staff can respond appropriately.

"This kind of interoperability is driven by how you and the stakeholders want the building to work, and what kind of environment and experience you want for your facilities," Woodward says.

Editor's Note: The expanded version of this article is available online at www.SecurityInfoWatch.com, which contains additional in-depth material on several topics presented here.

Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities (www.go-rbcs.com). Mr. Bernard is founder and publisher of "The Security Minute" 60-second newsletter (www.TheSecurityMinute.com). He is also active in the education committees of the in the ASIS International Physical Security and IT Security Councils (www.asisonline.org). Mr. Bernard is also a member of the Subject Matter Expert faculty of the Security Executive Council.

Connected Buildings and Security Systems

When a multi-story building is under construction, passers-by see steel framework, concrete flooring, air ducts, pipes and cables - all of which eventually disappear when the outer skin goes on and the inside walls go up in the final phases of construction. When the building "comes to life" during occupancy, many building systems - including security systems - become active and start playing a role.

Because building systems are migrating onto a common network infrastructure, and are thus able to connect with one another to exchange information, it helps to envision the copper and fiber cable throughout as the building's nervous system, enabling its various management and control systems to optimize building functions. This is not just a poetic analogy, as can be seen from the two video links below.

Cisco, which created the second video, applied the unified operations center concept in creating its Global SFOC (Security and Facilities Operations Center). In discussing its ROI, Cisco's Deon Chatterton, Senior Manager of Integrated Building and Risk Technologies, pointed out that the return for an operations center with a combined function is higher than for two separate centers. Where a single-function operations center may not fully make its business case, consider a dual-function center.

It is worth taking 15 minutes to view these YouTube videos, and to note how many times security and security technology can be seen to play a role in both security and non-security building functions.

Panduit - Connected Buildings (2:33): http://tinyurl.com/Panduit-cb
Cisco - Connected Real Estate (9:43): http://tinyurl.com/Cisco-cre