|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.
“delaPlex Software provides software outsourcing services. We have a hybrid model where we have onshore developers and project managers that we can place anywhere in the U.S. or in Europe,” explained Manish Sachdeva, CEO at delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 26, 2016 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,537
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor – all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
Jul. 26, 2016 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,135
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
Jul. 25, 2016 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,011
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 25, 2016 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,307
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
Jul. 25, 2016 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,023
"We view the cloud not really as a specific technology but as a way of doing business and that way of doing business is transforming the way software, infrastructure and services are being delivered to business," explained Matthew Rosen, CEO and Director at Fusion, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 25, 2016 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,512
"When you think about the data center today, there's constant evolution, The evolution of the data center and the needs of the consumer of technology change, and they change constantly," stated Matt Kalmenson, VP of Sales, Service and Cloud Providers at Veeam Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 25, 2016 10:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,299
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
Jul. 25, 2016 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,677
Continuous testing helps bridge the gap between developing quickly and maintaining high quality products. But to implement continuous testing, CTOs must take a strategic approach to building a testing infrastructure and toolset that empowers their team to move fast. Download our guide to laying the groundwork for a scalable continuous testing strategy.
Jul. 25, 2016 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,920
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, discussed how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved efficienc...
Jul. 25, 2016 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,941
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Jul. 25, 2016 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,501
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
Jul. 25, 2016 08:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,934
The cloud competition for database hosts is fierce. How do you evaluate a cloud provider for your database platform? In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Chris Presley, a Solutions Architect at Pythian, gave users a checklist of considerations when choosing a provider. Chris Presley is a Solutions Architect at Pythian. He loves order – making him a premier Microsoft SQL Server expert. Not only has he programmed and administered SQL Server, but he has also shared his expertise and passion with b...
Jul. 25, 2016 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,916
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
Jul. 25, 2016 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,972
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
Jul. 25, 2016 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,890
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...
Jul. 25, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,013
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., and Logan Best, Infrastructure & Network Engineer at Webair, focused on real world deployments of DDoS mitigation strategies in every layer of the network. He gave an overview of methods to prevent these attacks and best practices on how to provide protection in complex cloud platforms. He also outlined what we have found in our experience managing and running thousands of Linux and Unix ...
Jul. 25, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,748
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yoseph Reuveni, Director of Software Engineering at Jet.com, will discuss Jet.com's journey into containerizing Microsoft-based technologies like C# and F# into Docker. He will talk about lessons learned and challenges faced, the Mono framework tryout and how they deployed everything into Azure cloud. Yoseph Reuveni is a technology leader with unique experience developing and running high throughput (over 1M tps) distributed systems with extre...
Jul. 25, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,089
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 25, 2016 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,794
"Operations is sort of the maturation of cloud utilization and the move to the cloud," explained Steve Anderson, Product Manager for BMC’s Cloud Lifecycle Management, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 25, 2016 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,881