Since 2007, the ultimate in mobile phone and PDA convergence is arguably the iPhone. Since then there have been many other devices, most notably Android based devices and touchscreen Blackberries, that have a lot of similar functionality. A lot can be argued as to whether or not some of these devices are useful as business tools, however what cannot be argued against is the proliferation of these devices and the appetite of end users to use them for business purposes other than just calls and email.
Take monitoring for example. Last month I was sitting at home designing a custom dashboard mock-up for a customer. They had a desire to view important information through an array of devices from pretty much anywhere. I don’t actually possess an iPhone or an HTC smartphone, so I was limited to testing on an iPhone emulator.
My wife on the other hand does have an iPhone. For the next 2 hours, much to her annoyance, I hogged it! I wanted to see how usable it really was. Touchscreen, panning, scaling, rotation and zoom functions really made the vFoglight dashboard usable. Not to mention the flexibility in connectivity options 3G/GPRS/WLAN!
I must point out that PDA based browsers are not officially supported by Vizioncore or Quest for the Foglight platform. That’s not the same as saying it doesn’t work! On the browser I could load up any dashboard and obtain any view. The best views though were the custom views that displayed in half VGA. With fixed positioning dashboards (see Mattias Sundling’s blog http://vcommunity.vizioncore.com/monitoring/vfoglight/b/weblog/archive/2010/05/24/simplifying-dashboards-with-background-images.aspx) I could transpose meaningful background images with key datacenter/cluster alarm severity messages displaying the state and health of those objects.
When there was an issue in vFoglight, the Quick View (as opposed to vmExplorer) would give me what I needed. The screenshots do not really do this justice as I cannot rotate through 90 ' on the emulator, but I think you get the idea.
It was extremely tempting not to return this device to my wife!
There are a few basic guidelines for creating custom dash for an iPhone or Android. Like I say, they are merely guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
A decent sized touch screen is a must. Especially if you need the drill down functionality.
Design the dash or image to be no more than half VGA (HVGA) 320x 480 where possible.
Below we have a server rack dashboard displaying health of our ESX hosts.
Create a separate iPhone/Android Smartphone user or group so that they see only the dashboards that are relevant. This can also act as an added security layer should the phone ever get misplaced or stolen.
For some of these views, I have created some users and roles that are smartphone specific.
Define drilldown actions to be Smartphone friendly. I use Quick Views as opposed to vmExplorer views. There is a trade-off on information though, so test thoroughly.
Below we can see health of a cluster through an Alarms dashboard.
In conclusion, I firmly believe that these devices have a place in day to day administration, but only with the right applications. I believe that the flexibility of vFoglight dashboards coupled with the usability of these devices leads to some fantastic possibilities. Do you need to monitor your Virtual Environment while on the hoof? Whatever smartphone you choose, we have an app for that!
Let us know if you have designed any custom dashboards suitable for hand held devices. I also have it on good authority that Mattias Sundling has been working on dashboards for the iPad. Hopefully we will get an update shortly on how that’s going!