|By Michael Bushong||
|July 2, 2014 06:00 AM EDT||
If LinkedIn profiles are any indication, User Experience (frequently shortened to UX) is the new orange. Indeed, across all manners of technology, there is an increasing focus on improving user experience. Driven in part by Apple’s success on the consumer side, it would appear that IT infrastructure vendors are getting in on the action. In the quest to simplify our collective lives and differentiate in a space more defined by cost than capability, the user is taking a more prominent role.
As it should be.
Networking and UX
This is especially true in networking. The truth about all but the highest-end markets is that from a performance perspective, there are multiple options that are good enough. The differentiating and most compelling points for most people are less about capability and more about cost. For now, the focus remains on reducing CapEx, but once all the vendors settle out around the same price (everyone is using more or less the same hardware), eyes will turn more towards OpEx. And that will bring into play a lot more of the operational experience in deploying and managing a network.
First, while decision criteria will initially settle on cost, make no mistake about it: the actual differentiation is bigger than just cost. The overall user experience—from architecting to procuring to deploying to managing—will become a means of distinguishing solutions. When the window for cost narrows, it actually takes cost off the table and makes other elements of the product even more important.
As a strategic aside, this is why some of the more raw DIY solutions are going to struggle a bit in many parts of the market. The downward pressure they exert on price is effective, but once the more entrenched players come down, the difference in price is no longer compelling. This leaves the primary differentiation as capabilities, global support, and user experience, all of which tilt towards the legacy companies – at least in the short to medium term.
State of the industry
If user experience is poised to be a big difference maker, what does the state of the industry look like currently?
In a word, sorry. IT generally, and networking especially, is in a sorry state when it comes to overall user experience. Most networking solutions are provisioned and managed via device-by-device commands. In the best of cases, this is a repetitive task that can be automated; in the worst cases, the commands are esoteric, highly contextual, and vary in behavior depending on conditions.
We exist in an inside-out industry. User experience is the last thing that vendors think about when determining direction. Roadmap planning in any of the major vendors is an exercise in spreadsheet management. Individual feature requests are fielded by sales teams and filtered to product management teams. There is typically a rough sort on business case (how many deals are riding on a particular feature?). From there, the roadmap is reviewed, tweaked, and published.
Of course there are user-experience champions at every company. They fight the good fight. But there are only so many places they can insert, and the roadmap is dominated by people who are not so enlightened.
In a user-experience-centric world, the starting point wouldn’t be the feature. At least not in its current state. Each feature would be in support of some objective. That objective would map to a set of workflows required to achieve it. And those workflows would all have properties.
- Every workflow has a trigger. What initiates the workflow? Is it someone keying in a command? Someone clicking on a GUI? Maybe an API call?
- Based on the trigger, what are the likely contexts for the workflow? If the trigger is based on someone logged into a discrete device, then the CLI might be an appropriate context. If the trigger is an API call, the context might be entirely different.
- How do you know when a workflow is complete? Is there some state that is captured?
- Most workflows will exist alongside others in workflow chains. What are the preceding and following workflows? This helps identify possible improvements in automation on the system side. For example, automatically pinging across a link after setting up a BGP connection would be a fairly trivial way of adding some validation to a provisioning workflow.
- Some workflows have dependencies on other workflows. Mapping those dependencies out is an interesting way to help simplify user interaction. If, for instance, a workflow is predicated on the existence of a policy definition, automatically teeing up policy creation is an interesting workflow element.
There are probably a dozen other properties of workflows. The point here is not that these are the right properties but rather that adding a new feature ought to begin with the workflow in mind.
UX and architecture
In networking, we equate UX to UI. And then we throw a CLI on virtually everything. A user’s experience goes well beyond just the interface into which a user keys a command. If we really thought about workflows first, we would do more than add configuration knobs. We would consider validation and troubleshooting as natural extensions of workflow, and make these easier to do.
The unfortunate byproduct of our collective approach to user experience is that we do product architecture first. The challenge here is that for user experience to be truly effective, it ought to inform the underlying architecture. As it stands, user experience is a consumer of that architecture, with very little (read: no) input in the vast majority of cases.
Realize that the networking industry has been architecting products and solutions from the inside out for decades. Developers are in a tough spot. They have to make magic happen by typing into a terminal window. The focus is function first, form later. And this leaves user experience relegated to a tack-on after the product has already been built. At that point, how much can you do anyway? This is why UX has equalled UI for so long. Without architectural input, the best we can hope for is a slightly better configuration knob.
The bottom line
If networking really is on the cusp of changing over, user experience has to be an input into the design process. This is a radical change in how products are conceived, built, and ultimately brought to market. Do not underestimate the difficulty in transitioning an organization from feature-centric to user-experience-centric. Most established companies will fail to make this transition (if they even try at all).
The biggest impact of startups in the networking space might be a refocusing of efforts around the thing that we seem to have lost amidst all the technological upheaval over the last few decades: the user. And wouldn’t that be a glorious thing?
[Today’s fun fact: For every human being in the world, there is approximately one chicken. KFC feels personally responsible for keeping the balance.]
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 10:00 PM EST Reads: 1,201
AppZero has announced that its award-winning application migration software is now fully qualified within the Microsoft Azure Certified program. AppZero has undergone extensive technical evaluation with Microsoft Corp., earning its designation as Microsoft Azure Certified. As a result of AppZero's work with Microsoft, customers are able to easily find, purchase and deploy AppZero from the Azure Marketplace. With just a few clicks, users have an Azure-based solution for moving applications to the...
Dec. 19, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 746
The cloud is becoming the de-facto way for enterprises to leverage common infrastructure while innovating and one of the biggest obstacles facing public cloud computing is security. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Aliber, a global marketing executive at Verizon, discussed how the best place for web security is in the cloud. Benefits include: Functions as the first layer of defense Easy operation –CNAME change Implement an integrated solution Best architecture for addressing network-l...
Dec. 19, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 1,186
SYS-CON Events announced today Isomorphic Software, the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software ...
Dec. 19, 2014 07:00 PM EST Reads: 739
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 06:00 PM EST Reads: 1,161
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
Dec. 19, 2014 04:45 PM EST Reads: 809
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
Dec. 19, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 2,296
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,852
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
Dec. 19, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,961
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,886
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
Dec. 19, 2014 08:00 AM EST Reads: 1,877
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
Dec. 19, 2014 07:00 AM EST Reads: 2,164
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
Dec. 19, 2014 06:30 AM EST Reads: 2,158
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada...
Dec. 19, 2014 04:00 AM EST Reads: 1,979
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...
Dec. 19, 2014 04:00 AM EST Reads: 1,795
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
Dec. 19, 2014 02:00 AM EST Reads: 1,892
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
Dec. 18, 2014 09:45 PM EST Reads: 1,009
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,242
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.
Dec. 18, 2014 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,121