ONEDC
Data Centre Infrastructure Management 
Interaction designer and product owner 2014-2015

ONEDC® is a web-based platform for managing data centre intelligence (DCI). To successfully overcome the challenge of managing such diverse, highly complex and disparate infrastructure, data centre managers need real-time intelligence on their infrastructures operation to manage efficiency and drive cost-effectiveness, while monitoring and managing risk. ONEDC cuts through this complexity by providing real-time visualisation into the state of a data centre’s operation, turning big data into real intelligence.

Vision

In a complex environment as a data centre, where multi-sourced, inter-related pieces of information need to be gathered, analysed and understood by different mind sets, in real-time, appropriate graphic representation is key. Being able to make sense of relevant data is important for people who are trying to make high-impact decisions, such as migration of hundreds of servers from one data centre to the other, or running a cross-connect (interconnect) between two servers on different sides and levels of a building.

Contextual User Study

On top of regular meetings with customers to discuss their needs in depth, I met our facilities’ technicians in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to study everything I can about interconnection (cross-connect), which is the physical connection of one customer-asset to the other. Besides interviews, I followed several technicians around the data centre, while they were provisioning cross-connects. By observing them in their routine, I was able to understand the complexity of the process, see their frustration over the inadequacy of the current tools they were using, and witness some creative improvisations to solve problematic edge cases in real-time.

Each fabric optic cable sits in a tray, in a draw, in a rack, in a hall or interconnect room, marked with a unique ID that corresponds with its owner.
Requirements and Prioritisation

To organise thoughts and ideas I like using diagrams and models over lists. A visual representation of data adds another layer to a diagram by presenting hierarchy, highlighting categorisation or identifying relations between items. Sharing diagrams and sketches with customers and stakeholders lead to better communication and clarification of ideas. In order to define the requirements, I analysed interviews with customers and stakeholders, to ensure the product will fit our customers’ needs, the business’s goals and our technological capabilities and resources.

Requirement prioritisation, based on user study; Mapping the activities in the data centre
Information Architecture and Prototyping

From sketches on paper, to static low-fi wireframes, to interactive UI mockups - I share the work-in-progress with my team, and internal and external customers to get feedback early and often. With the cross-connect product, I showed the DC technicians some screens and asked them to navigate between them on their own. This way, I could read their authentic response in first person. Then we’d all discuss the problems and think together of ways to solve them, by design. Wireframes and visualisations are also useful to ideate new features and system functionality with engineers and customers.

Exemplar Cross-Connect

Based on observations and conversations with the data centre technicians, I was able to create a diagram that maps the physical path of a typical cross-connect. By visualising the path, we were able to ideate a new feature - Path Suggestion, which will provide technicians the exact ports they need to connect along the multi-port path from A-end to Z-end. This could save the facility a lot of time and reduce expensive human error.

Visualising connectivity in the Data Centre
Cross-Connect configuratin
Rules for power outage notification
Cross-Connect Configuration area with automatic path suggestion
Hall and Rack view, alerts and device configuration
Summary

After years of web design, this project presented a whole new challenge. It required rapid learning, and the ideation of a solution for a very complex interplay of problems. The advantage of designing a product that was partly dedicated to an “internal” customer, i.e. the data centre technicians, gave me free and frequent access to observations and interviews which were crucial to the task ahead. Developing relationships with both customers and technicians, helped me validate ideas and gain feedback on prototypes, before they get built. The ability to validate detailed prototypes before a single line of code is written, enabled an efficient, cost effective development process. As a product manager, de facto, I learned to conduct market research and analyse competitors’ offers, create SWATs, gap analysis, and define product strategy and roadmaps. The workflow enabledI a broader understanding of the product I was designing and the journey it required us to take as a team.