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Monthly Archives: October 2013

VMworld 2013 Barcelona wrap-up and thank you note

First of all: what an amazing event! We hope you enjoyed VMworld 2013 in Barcelona as much as we did!

Our TAM customer community started VMworld 2013 with the exclusive and very popular TAM Day. This year, we were overwhelmed by the interest in TAM Day! More than 200 people attended and we are already planning for even more capacity for next year! Most popular were the NSX overview session by Paul Fazzone (VMware Vice President of Product Management for NSX) and our highly interactive Birds of a Feather lunch with Subject Matter Experts for SDDC, Big Data, VSAN, Automation, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, Data Protection, vCloud Hybrid Services, VMware Global Support Services or CloudOps – to name just a few.

Thank you for taking this extra day to join our both technical and business breakout sessions, discussions and also the get-together event in the evening. TAM Day is your day! We will go through the feedback forms and incorporate that for our 2014 planning!

TAM Customer Central was a huge success as well. We moved into a new area in comparison to the 2012 event to allow even more people in for these deep-dive discussions. And still we had to bring in additional chairs to fit all interested customers for some of the sessions. This time, TAM Customer Central also had an area with sofas to just sit down, relax your feet and catch up with other people in the room.

Overall, we’d like to thank you very much for participating in these exclusive meetings with our experts, Product Managers, Engineers, etc. We hope the discussions and roadmap information provided added even more value to your VMworld experience.

If you want to share feedback between now and VMworld 2014 with us, please feel free to reach out to your TAM or provide it directly in this form.

Before we all meet again in Barcelona next year, make sure to follow us on our Blog, Twitter, Facebook and Google+!

User Interface Design and the change from desktop computing

By guest blogger, Christian Wickham, Technical Account Manager, South Australia and Northern Territory, and Local Government and Councils in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales at VMware Australia and New Zealand

I have been working in IT for 22 years, and during that time there have been changes – more than a few. In the early nineties, I did a bachelor honours degree in IT – and my dissertation (thesis) was about user interface design. The main conclusion was along the lines of “users should be focussed on learning how to use an interface, and instead should be able to focus on their work task” – because at that time there was a wide variation in user interfaces, Windows was still dependent on DOS, software had many varying interfaces and layouts, all meaning that users needed extensive training on how to use their computer.

There were word processors that were shipped with paper overlays for your keyboard, so that the required key combinations to activate features did not need to be memorised (see an image at http://www.retrothing.com/2006/06/wordperfect_51_.html). During my University days, computers were only just starting to embrace the WIMPs (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointers) approach with Windows 3.0, and every software graphical interface looked wildly different, depending upon who you bought it from. Around this time, Visio (before it was bought by Microsoft), prompted during installation for a choice of interface style – Microsoft Office or Delphi or AmiPro, the change was then applied to the buttons and layout of the screen, to mimic the other styles which a user may have already been familiar with.

Now consider your own experiences with learning interfaces – is your satisfaction with a product dependent on how easy it was to use the interface? Was the interpretation of how easy it was to use related to how similar it was to an interface that you already knew and understood? When you upgrade software to the latest version, do you get annoyed when something changes, and you have to re-learn the way to do tasks that were previously easy?

It’s no accident that there are significant similarities (and differences) across the interface choices for major software vendors. If you have used a Mac and Windows you will know the subtle differences and the major similarities; icons on the desktop default to different sides of the screen, menus on a Mac are always at the top of the screen and on Windows are always within the application window – but notice that they tend to start with ‘File’ and end with ‘Help’. File hierarchy trees will be on the left – start from the top and expand to the right, a star marks a favourite, a triangle icon 6indicates that a menu will drop down, clicking on a column will sort it, folders contain files and other folders, a letter X will close the item, the list goes on. When the interfaces follow the same patterns and metaphors, we don’t need to learn them – and when they are just slightly different, it is often because one company has patented it! http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/070611-microsoft-android.html

Skip forward to 2013, and where are we? Microsoft releases Windows 8, and some people don’t like it because the interface is unfamiliar, and they need to learn how to use Windows again – Microsoft responds with Windows 8.1 ‘Blue’. Apple users are frequently experiencing features changing and disappearing – look at http://www.theoligarch.com/microsoft_vs_apple_history.htm for the history of the interfaces of these two operating systems.

However, if you buy an iPad or Android device – do you need days of training? When you download a new app for your phone or tablet, are you able to use it almost immediately? We have learnt some of the common patterns of user interface design to such an extent that we know how to use a completely new tool because it shares standard models of behaviour that we have already learnt. Next time you go to a new website, take a moment to recognise that you know which parts are an advertisement, which are menus to other parts of the site, where searching the site is done from, how to share the page with others through Facebook and Twitter – yet you can still consume the content (such as this blog article) to get the information that you want.

Windows 8, love it or hate it, has focussed on a move from running desktop software to apps that are not so much on driving the software tool and instead on achieving the task simply. Most interfaces have been getting steadily more simplistic, hiding advanced and complex options into a ribbon – or completely.

So, there are some things which hopefully most will agree on;

  • Users get comfortable with the user interface that they have been using before, and change to the interface can affect their ability to achieve their work tasks
  • There is a trend towards interfaces that are similar and share common traits / paradigms /  metaphors that most people can pick up rapidly
  • Software is moving to an app model where there is less focus on a huge number of features, and instead on simplicity
  • People will have more devices – a computer at home, in the office, in their pocket and in their hands. You are pretty much guaranteed that they will all have different interfaces
  • The desktop is becoming less relevant – touch and apps are here and will only get bigger

What can VMware do about this? We have solutions that tackle this issue from both sides. If you want to retain software that people are familiar with and allow it to be used on new interfaces (such as an application that depends upon Office 97, running on Windows 8), then VMware ThinApp is an application virtualisation solution. The focus of ThinApp is not normally on retaining an interface, more on maintaining usability of applications that cannot be upgraded to work on a new (or varied) operating system.

From the other end comes the VMware Horizon Suite, and more specifically VMware Horizon Workspace. Delivering access to the tasks and data that the user needs, in a paradigm that many users are already well versed in – a website with app icons that look similar to the app icons on your touch device. The interface is consistent across all devices, so no more learning how to drive it when you change from a tablet to a laptop. Another big benefit is that Horizon Suite also contains Horizon Files, which can be synchronised between computers (Windows and Mac), shared with people inside and outside your organisation, and centrally held for easier backup and security.

The future may well be app based, with a focus on simple access to work tasks. But that does not mean that the desktop will completely disappear – and of course VMware continues to develop the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure space, with Horizon View maintaining access to a “traditional” desktop, but with enhancements for yet more clients; you can use an HTML5 web browser with VMware Blast HTML access to Horizon View, you can enhance the use of Windows with the Horizon View Unity Touch plugin for making access to the Start Menu and applications easier.

 

 

“It’s All About the Applications!” TAM Day 2013 Executive Keynote at VMworld US

Exciting times are here for those of us with an absolute passion for infrastructure – continued advancements in the virtualization of x86 workloads, software-defined storage and networking, coupled with management, automation, security and compliance.

But let’s not lose sight of the purpose of the infrastructure within this wave of innovation – it’s there to run applications!

Paul Strong, our CTO of Global Field for VMware, kicked off TAM Day 2013 in San Francisco with an Executive Keynote and addressed the concepts behind the software-defined data center and the relationships with the application workloads.

Running applications can be challenging.  Each application has to be purchased or written, architected, integrated and tested. If it’s critical to the business or the mission, the application will be throughly and repeatedly tested. Then it needs to be deployed, managed, secured and monitored.  Backup, recovery and business continuity plans are also needed.  And if you are really dedicated, you will practice actual failover between sites rather than the academic paper-based exercises.

Oh no, you’re not done just yet. Applications need people with those skills to operationally maintain the application lifecycle and processes – including patching and upgrading.

And that’s just a single application. How many applications are in a typical enterprise? Some have hundreds, some thousands!  It is this large number of applications and their diversity that drives complexity in IT, and thus cost.  And it is diversity that has made automated management so hard. Diversity in terms of applications and in terms of infrastructure – and all change frequently.

Minimizing the number of patterns is what allows cloud providers to achieve economies of scale, or what we could think of as economies of simplicity.  Minimize the number of patterns deployed and in so doing you are able to massively automate the management of applications.  Automation improves reliability, reduces cost and enables agility.

While enterprises are unable to reduce the number of applications managed down to single digits they can certainly source some of their applications as SaaS. But what about the rest?  Well, it turns out that if we make all of the applications look the same from a management perspective, then we can get most, if not all, of the benefits of simplicity, and automation.

And it is this principle that lies at the heart of a software-defined data center.

The software-defined data center is about two verbs – virtualize and automate. Virtualization separates applications from the physical infrastructure, placing them in simple containers (virtual machines or virtual data centers).  With the applications in containers, you can isolate them from each other.  You can move them from low capacity to high capacity, and back. You can move them from a breaking machine to a working machine.  You can move them from a machine that needs maintenance to one that does not.   You can move or replicate them across data centers for business continuity.  You can move out to the cloud to burst or test. Separating applications from the infrastructure allows you to do all of this, and virtualization is the means of achieving this. Placing your applications in these containers is the key to simplification.