There are many system monitoring tools out there and often they are great at gathering data and perhaps displaying events but they can fall short on user friendliness. They don’t always display information in an understandable manner particularly to the non-tech expert. So when I came across this article – “Never ask ‘Does that make sense?'” in the Harvard Business Review – it got me thinking about our InSite software product. The author argues that, when giving a presentation, the speaker should never ask the audience this question because it implies that (a) the speaker is uncertain of his/her ground and (b) the audience might not be capable of understanding. Instead, the speaker should ask the audience if there are any questions.
You may or may not agree with the article but it makes sense to me in the context of InSite and its users. We endeavour to make InSite intuitive to use. Configuring a new installation is likely to be done by a technically competent person, someone familiar with the systems and infrastructure that InSite will be monitoring for them. However, the dashboards and reports through which users interact with InSite day-to-day need to be usable and understandable by a wider audience – business people and non-techies as well as sysadmins and facilities managers. They should not find themselves staring at a report and asking themselves “Does this make sense?” although they may have questions about the information trends they are seeing. This is where the usability of the dashboards and reports, which present information in real-time, comes into its own. Users can drill down into detail, quickly and easily, to get answers to their questions and become better informed for making business decisions.
A few brief examples might help to illustrate this (although even better is to Contact Us to ask us questions and for your own demonstration).
An interactive dashboard showing a map with each icon linking to another layer which can be drilled down to in order to reveal further detail. In this way, you can go from a world view of your data centres right down to a local view, to a site view, to a floor plan, to a specific device. (Yes, there are shortcuts to enable you to get to exactly what you want at one click).
Perhaps you are responsible for several facilities and what you are most interested in is an overview showing you consolidated information, including key metrics that you are accountable for such as PUE. A dashboard like the one above, which is easily customisable, can give you that and it also enables you to drill down rapidly into any anomalies or critical situations that you can see. When you pick up the phone to the local data centre manager, you have the key information in front of you so you can ask the right questions and identify the issues.
From a management reporting perspective, perhaps you need a daily or weekly summary of what it is costing you, by rack or department, to power your data centre equipment. You might use this information for internal or customer billing; you might use it to drive behaviour change by making people aware of how much it costs to run those servers and applications they asked you to set up for them a year ago.
There are many more examples we could use but the key point is – you don’t have to wallow around in a sea of data asking “Does that make sense?”. Get in touch – we would really like to know how you want to see and use information to run your data centres even more efficiently. And we would love to help you make it happen!