|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.]
SYS-CON Events announced today that Verizon has been named "Gold Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Verizon Enterprise Solutions creates global connections that generate growth, drive business innovation and move society forward. With industry-specific solutions and a full range of global wholesale offerings provided over the company's secure mobility, cloud, strategic network...
Oct. 21, 2014 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,066
Ixia develops amazing products so its customers can connect the world. Ixia helps its customers provide an always-on user experience through fast, secure delivery of dynamic connected technologies and services. Through actionable insights that accelerate and secure application and service delivery, Ixia's customers benefit from faster time to market, optimized application performance and higher-quality deployments.
Oct. 20, 2014 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 804
SimpleECM is the only platform to offer a powerful combination of enterprise content management (ECM) services, capture solutions, and third-party business services providing simplified integrations and workflow development for solution providers. SimpleECM is opening the market to businesses of all sizes by reinventing the delivery of ECM services. Our APIs make the development of ECM services simple with the use of familiar technologies for a frictionless integration directly into web applicat...
Oct. 20, 2014 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,538
Blue Box has closed a $10 million Series B financing. The round was led by a strategic investor and included participation from prior investors including Voyager Capital and Founders Collective, as well as the Blue Box executive team. This round follows a $4.3 million Series A closed in December of 2012 and led by Voyager Capital. In May of this year, the company announced general availability of its private cloud as a service offering, Blue Box Cloud. Since that release, the company has dem...
Oct. 20, 2014 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,027
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic...
Oct. 20, 2014 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,839
Cloudwick, the leading big data DevOps service and solution provider to the Fortune 1000, announced Big Loop, its multi-vendor operations platform. Cloudwick Big Loop creates greater collaboration between Fortune 1000 IT staff, developers and their database management systems as well as big data vendors. This allows customers to comprehensively manage and oversee their entire infrastructure, which leads to more successful production cluster operations, and scale-out. Cloudwick Big Loop supports ...
Oct. 20, 2014 05:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,622
To manage complex web services with lots of calls to the cloud, many businesses have invested in Application Performance Management (APM) and Network Performance Management (NPM) tools. Together APM and NPM tools are essential aids in improving a business’s infrastructure required to support an effective web experience… but they are missing a critical component – Internet visibility. Internet connectivity has always played a role in customer access to web presence, but in the past few years use...
Oct. 20, 2014 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,628
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, will discuss how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP ...
Oct. 20, 2014 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,792
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation...
Oct. 20, 2014 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,565
What are the benefits of using an enterprise-grade orchestration platform? In their session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Tegethoff, CEO of Appcore, and Kedar Poduri, Senior Director of Product Management at Citrix Systems, will take a closer look at the architectural design factors needed to support diverse workloads and how to run these workloads efficiently as a service provider. They will also discuss how to deploy private cloud environments in 15 minutes or less.
Oct. 20, 2014 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,633
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Bitium was founded by Kriz and Erik Gustavson. The 1,500 cloud-based application using Bitium’s analytics, app management, and single sign-on services include bug trackers, customer service dashboards, Google Apps, and social networks. The firm states website administrators can do multiple tasks online without revealing passwords. Bitium’s advisors include Microsoft’s former CMO and the former senior vice president of strategy, the founder and CEO of Li...
Oct. 20, 2014 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,734
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. ...
Oct. 20, 2014 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,552
StackIQ offers a comprehensive software suite that automates the deployment, provisioning, and management of Big Infrastructure. With StackIQ’s software, you can spin up fully configured big data clusters, quickly and consistently — from bare-metal up to the applications layer — and manage them efficiently. Our software’s modular architecture allows customers to integrate nearly any application with the StackIQ software stack.
Oct. 20, 2014 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,426
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
Oct. 20, 2014 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,568
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce t...
Oct. 20, 2014 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,809
TechCrunch reported that "Berlin-based relayr, maker of the WunderBar, an Internet of Things (IoT) hardware dev kit which resembles a chunky chocolate bar, has closed a $2.3 million seed round, from unnamed U.S. and Switzerland-based investors. The startup had previously raised a €250,000 friend and family round, and had been on track to close a €500,000 seed earlier this year — but received a higher funding offer from a different set of investors, which is the $2.3M round it’s reporting."...
Oct. 20, 2014 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,499
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, 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 its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Oct. 19, 2014 10:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,924
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, da...
Oct. 19, 2014 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,463
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. ...
Oct. 19, 2014 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,708
In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Mark Hinkle, Senior Director, Open Source Solutions at Citrix Systems Inc., will provide overview of the open source software that can be used to deploy and manage a cloud computing environment. He will include information on storage, networking(e.g., OpenDaylight) and compute virtualization (Xen, KVM, LXC) and the orchestration(Apache CloudStack, OpenStack) of the three to build their own cloud services.
Oct. 19, 2014 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,900