|By Derick Winkworth||
|August 13, 2014 09:00 AM EDT||
We’ve spent some cycles talking about user experience and workflow in previous articles. So in this post, we’re going to explore how these things relate to one another in the context of networking. We’ll talk a little about each separately, then we’ll bring it together in the end.
User Experience (UX), in networking is a tricky thing. It’s not just about the direct user interaction of a particular feature or of a particular product. Over at Packet Pushers, we see many blog entries reviewing network products. Time and time again, they show us that UX encompasses something much broader: It’s the experience of how well the vendor delivers the product, not just the product itself. Vendors must consider the user’s experience from the first interactions with the company, to the unboxing of the product, the ease of finding and consuming relevant documentation, through the actual support process.
Network Engineers expect that there will be problems. However, problems frequently mean one-offs and exceptions until an appropriate fix surfaces. If we can never find an answer in documentation, this can be frustrating. Especially if we are told by support that it is a well known issue. If it’s well known, then produce some documentation with workarounds! If there is an associated bug, put a bug ID in the docs. If possible, put a target release for an upcoming fix, too. Easy to find, relevant documentation can vastly improve the experience of the product, even when dealing with bugs.
Let’s consider the UX of support. On average, your users frequently know more about networking than you do. Customers have poured a significant amount of their time into memorizing piles and piles of facts about how every tiny thing in networking should work. Standards are tricky thing, too. If you are going to tell the customer that your product is “behaving according to standards” then you better be prepared to back that up. You also should be prepared to back down from that argument as well. There are many standards, and portions of standards, that are not followed by any vendor or community in practice. Sometimes standards are not clear or they are contradictory. In these cases, over time, implementations have evolved a certain way to deal with these inconsistencies in order to ensure interoperability. It is incumbent upon the vendor to adjust as required in these situations. Remember the Robustness Principle in RFC 1122 (section 1.2.2): “Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.”
The most important part here is that the user’s experience of the company is more important than just the product alone. Vendors should understand all points of interaction with the customer from sales, to documentation, the product user interface, to support, should be crafted relative to the workflow of their customer. Focus less on features, and more on solving problems.
We’ve spent some time, in particular, talking about workflow here on the Plexxi blog site. The first, and key, take away here is that Network Engineering is workflow dominated. Everything we do ends up being a series of steps, and those steps don’t always involve direct interaction with the product. The second takeaway is that workflows are dynamic. As previously discussed, referential space in networking is enormously complicated. Exactly where a network engineer starts their workflow in referential space, and what path they will end up traversing, is highly dependent on what they are doing and what they stumble across while they are working.
When customers are evaluating a product, what they need to understand is how the product solves some difficult problem for them, and this means the vendor must have a solid understanding of where their product fits in referential space. What difficult, error-prone, risk-heavy, or tedious path in this space are you solving? It’s important to know that even if you are solving a problem well, you are at the same time altering the landscape of this space. This is very important for the customer. This is what that drives them to want to understand the classic “packet-walkthrough”, for instance. If you are telling them “You won’t need to configure VLANs anymore” then you should be able to tangibly show them what they will be doing.
Ambiguity is bad. To the customer, ambiguity means an investment in time and and effort to understand and operate the product.
Coming out of the SDN hype-cycle, we have learned many things (I hope). The most important thing is that networking is really complicated. We can’t just make it go away. The most successful products have simply moved the complexity around, and they do this with little understanding of what network engineers do.
When vendors truly understand how user experience intersects with the complex space that network workflows happen in, then they can change how they build and deliver network products in innovative ways. The way to do this is by partnering with network engineers and their teams, and to really listen to how they work and the problems they actually have. Every part of the user experience should be tailored to make network engineers more effective.
In short, network engineers make better partners than they do targets. Understanding our customers means understanding networks in context. This is how we move networking forward.
"We have a tagline - "Power in the API Economy." What that means is everything that is built in applications and connected applications is done through APIs," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at Akana, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 1, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 719
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jul. 1, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,018
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 1, 2015 02:21 PM EDT Reads: 479
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
Jul. 1, 2015 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,235
To many people, IoT is a buzzword whose value is not understood. Many people think IoT is all about wearables and home automation. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed some incredible game-changing use cases and how they are transforming industries like agriculture, manufacturing, health care, and smart cities. He will discuss cool technologies like smart dust, robotics, smart labels, and much more. Prepare to be blown away with a glimpse of the future.
Jul. 1, 2015 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 754
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jul. 1, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,123
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
Jul. 1, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,932
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context wi...
Jul. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 898
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC 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. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,688
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,187
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,534
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
Jun. 28, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,234
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
Jun. 27, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,257
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fillin...
Jun. 26, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,243
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jun. 26, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,120
Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
Jun. 25, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,035
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
Jun. 25, 2015 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,191
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Conference" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA, and the “Third Containers & Microservices Conference” will take place June 7-9, 2016, at Javits Center in New York City. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Jun. 22, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,832
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "First Containers & Microservices Conference" will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. The “Second Containers & Microservices Conference” will take place November 3-5, 2015, at Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
Jun. 20, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 3,900
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
Jun. 15, 2015 08:45 PM EDT Reads: 4,146