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The Importance of User Interfaces in IT Infrastructure Management – Gigaom

IT is all about APIs and automation, but I think sometimes we forget we're human.

I fully understand why everyone is trying to program and automate every single part of his IT and last week at Tech Field. Day 20 We attended a few sessions that were crazy about automation. What I liked best was with Cisco about their NSO (more on that in future podcasts and articles), but at the same time, visualization is a fundamental aspect to get an idea of ​​what's really going on in your infrastructure. It is very difficult to properly perform data visualization, and failing to get the right information when needed can significantly impact the efficiency of multiple processes, including day-to-day system administration and troubleshooting.

It wastes time to understand what is happening in the system and can easily affect the overall time it takes to resolve problems or, worse, SLAs.

Different perspectives

When it comes to IT infrastructures and we think about graphical user interfaces, then there are these Some aspects to consider:

  • Day 0 Operations UI ( Wizards): If you are deploying a new infrastructure through a user interface, you will most likely need to do it step by step to ensure that all components are properly deployed and that they are properly configured to provide the required services and support provide necessary support for the following. UI wizards can be of great help in this regard to simplify the whole process. This may seem trivial, but simplification can avoid mistakes and speed up the whole process. An interesting video of what I am saying here can be found here:

  • Everyday Operation : Once the infrastructure is deployed, the nature of the user interface is completely different, especially when it comes to it goes to monitor the status of the infrastructure and understand its behavior. In this case, it is no longer about assistants, but dashboards and an intelligent visualization of the infrastructure layout. Faster information gathering is the goal here. To achieve this, it is important to have customizable views and reports. Another interesting video that is very interesting on this topic can be found here:

If we look at the user interface of operators instead of operations, there are at least two different types of people might be Be interested in intelligent user interface and data visualization:

  • Expert SysAdmin: This person is usually interested in getting as much information as possible in order to act quickly. Enhanced user interfaces with rich dashboards and the ability to analyze the infrastructure layout to discover as much as possible with just a few clicks are the goal. Simplicity is usually traded for quantity and quality of information.
  • General Practitioners: On the other side of the spectrum, there are IT operators who need the simplest interfaces, with information that is easy to understand and that quickly gives them an idea of ​​what's going on. At the same time, these interfaces are typically associated with wizards and smart wizards that help the operator identify problems faster and report them to the right person in the organization.

Here's another great example of a superbly successful user interface. Here's the demo of Forescout on TD20:

Automation and User Interfaces

One Good user interface is also important when system administration is heavily supported by orchestration and configuration management tools. In fact, a good user interface with a clear visualization of the infrastructure layout can provide feedback in real time about the actions performed by these tools, regardless of the complexity of the infrastructure. When the data and infrastructure visualization directly reflects the infrastructure changes made by the orchestration tool, all operators can benefit and there is no risk of processing outdated information.

Here's an example of what I'm saying from the NSO demo that CISCO unveiled at the TFD20:

Key Takeaways

User interfaces are like an important part of any tool for monitoring IT infrastructures. In most organizations, user interfaces still form the core of system administration, and in others, they remain an important element to simplify day-to-day IT operations and provide the best tools for each type of operator.

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