This is a common request among vRealize Operations dashboard artist. To a few of us who love visualizing information with vR Ops, we see the dashboard as a canvas. Granted, the widgets have limitation but that’s part of the art.
The 5-second Test
- Can the dashboard be understood within 5 seconds? If yes, you buy yourself a few more minutes. User understands what the dashboard does, and is willing to spend more time mastering it.
- Which information, object, metric can you take out from the dashboard?
In the Executive Dashboard below, it has minimal info and the content is largely large number.
- 2 dashboards can have identical role, purpose, scope, etc. But if the size of the environment differs, the 2 dashboard will be different. An environment with 50K VMs is managed differently with an environment of 50 VMs.
- An environment with 100 VM in just 8 hosts in 1 cluster (hence 1 datacenter, 1 vCenter) needs less dashboards than an environment with 10K VM spread over 800 ESXi , 100 clusters, 10 datacenters and 3 vCenters.
- Begin with the end in mind. What is the final outcome and laser focus on that.
- Generic dashboard that tries to please everyone and cover all end up not used
- Divide the screen into sections visually. This makes the dashboard easier to read.
- Here are some examples of how you can divide the screen.
Here is a good example of layout. Notice how simple it is. This is built by Blue Medora.
From the above, it is clear that it has 4 layers as layout is consistent among them.
Color and Content
- Take advantage of color.
- There are different type of color spectrum you can choose. Here are 3 to consider:
- Green –> Yellow –> Orange –> Red.
- Black <– Green –> Red. We use this in Capacity as wastage (unused) is a bigger issue than over utilization.
- Light Blue –> Dark Blue. We use this when trying to highlight difference in heatmap. Easier to see the boxes when they are not the same color! We use this in the Cluster Configuration dashboard.
In the Compliance dashboard below, color is used to quickly show the various level of compliance. If all you see is Green, there is no need to look at the numbers & texts!
The next few dashboards show how the best practices are being applied.
The next dashboard covers Inventory. It answers questions such as “What have we got? Where are they?” Inventory is not Configuration. They are related but not identical.
The dashboard below is an overview dashboard for Storage Team. It is purpose-built for them, so info that is not related is not shown. It is also an overview dashboard, so details information is not shown.
Once the Storage team understands the big picture, they are ready to tackle monitoring. One major part is Capacity Monitoring. The dashboard below is purpose-built for this use case.
This next dashboard uses line chart a lot. The purpose is for Help Desk to quickly determine if performance issue is due to VM or IaaS. Because of that, the performance threshold line is shown. Line chart is used as the performance issue might happen the past.
This next dashboard uses distribution chart as its top as top-line header. They attract attention and can easily tell if you have configuration that can cause problem in your IaaS.
A dashboard can be visually simple, but has deep concept. When you need to change paradigm, use the text widget to explain. You can also use image. Upload your image into the View widget once you know the screen resolution you’re building it for.
The next dashboard helps to quickly determine the degree of VM CPU over-provisioning. Notice it has 3 questions. Each question is answered by 1 widget.
Hope you find it useful. I want to close by adding some limitations:
- Widget cannot drive grandchildren
- Use a parent widget as in between.
- Use auto-select 1st row to automate the driving. Collapse this parent widget if they are not required
- 6.3 and 6.4 cannot show 4-column layout
- If usability is acceptable, drive another dashboard. Jumping to another dashboard lets you have greater screen real estate, and the dashboard takes longer to load as it’s smaller.