A New Take on Network Visualization

With more than 55 data centres worldwide, CenturyLink Technology Solutions (CTS) is a major player in the data centre space. CTS tapped Myplanet to conceptualize and protoype a next-generation approach to network visualization and control. 

The Challenge

Cloud computing has changed the network game. Now, servers are virtual, running on large pools of commodity hardware. But even virtual networks demand a ton of work to set up. Extensive, detailed programming is required, and because it’s hard to see how all the components work together, a problem can take IT employees months of painstaking effort to locate and correct. 

CTS asked Myplanet to propose and validate a new solution for visualizing, testing, and deploying network configurations. The solution would need to save time for networking professionals and reduce labour overall. To validate the approach, CTS would showcase a prototype at VMworld, the “global conference for virtualization and cloud computing,”—which was then a mere four months away.

The Strategy

CTS had two major goals: First, to validate that a simplified, visual approach to network control could excite IT professionals and gain support from the industry. And second, if successful, to roll out prototype elements and incrementally enhance the provider’s live products. Myplanet’s experiment-driven approach was a perfect fit for the request: rapid learning and iteration would lead to a front-end prototype with real-world viability and reusable elements. 

With ongoing input from stakeholders and key customers, we began to research, design, and test control & visualization models (and an associated codebase) that could support an experiment and make it to production. We learned that many of CTS’s customers—large, data-intensive organizations for whom networking is mission critical—would need a bulletproof workflow that eliminated the chance of errors. Equipped with these insights, we delivered a prototype ready for validation at VMWorld in just 3.5 months.

The Experiment

Myplanet’s solution for the CTS Virtual Private Data Centre (VPDC) gives network administrators the power to blueprint and test different configurations and components for a full virtual data centre without risk. There’s no need to buy, install, configure, or manage any hardware. To bring the concept to life, we explored dynamic sorting, filtering, and search, closely examining all aspects of real-world network construction and management. Finally, for visualization, we settled upon the metaphor of public transportation routing—the London Tube map was particularly relevant—to unify the experience. 

Once at VMWorld, we put the fully-interactive front-end prototype directly into the hands of IT professionals, and set about gathering feedback.

Outcomes

The reception of Myplanet’s work at the conference was outstanding: evidently, the value of this new approach to network topology went right to the heart of current industry challenges. CTS was viewed as an industry innovator, and the VPDC solution inspired fresh dialogue in a highly competitive marketplace. 

Following the conference, Myplanet and CTS partnered to implement portions of the validated prototype. By making use of the front-end codebase and design language, CTS has continued to enhance their live products and serve their customers better in the workplace.

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