Dev

The dream of the universal dashboard

flickr, newwavegurly

New RelicThis post is part of a new series called “The Future of Modern Software” and is brought to you by New Relic. Read the series here. As always, VentureBeat is adamant about maintaining editorial objectivity.

In the world of the modern software development, where constant iteration and agile development are the keywords of the decade, having real-time information on all aspects of your business can be key to success. The dream of the universal dashboard has been around for decades, and recent developments in cloud technologies have made this increasingly possible.

Heroku mobile lead Mattt Thompson paints a scene of San Francisco’s startup-centric SOMA neighborhood, where the dream has nearly been realized.

“Walk into any hip tech startup in SOMA, and you’ll be flanked by giant flatscreen TVs displaying analytics dashboards for everything from perc 90 response times to what’s for lunch,” describes Thompson. “These real-time displays provide ambient awareness of the health of every part of the business, and they’ve become an essential tool for getting everyone in the loop of what’s going on.”

What’s good for the startup, however, may not be good for the enterprise, as complexity often increases with size. Where a startup may have an app, the enterprise outfit may have a dozen applications, both internal and external, alongside and array of websites, servers, and more. According to Dan Scholnick, partner at Trinity Ventures and board member at companies like Docker and New Relic, the dream of the enterprise dashboard is yet to be realized.

“The holy grail in the systems management world is to create the global dashboard that you can have in your data center or NOC. The idea is that it’s so powerful that you can just glance at it and understand what going on across your IT infrastructure. That’s been the dream for a very long time,” Scholnick argues. “It’s mostly an unfulfilled dream. Nobody has been able to create a single pane of glass that was that powerful, though we’re getting closer and closer.”

The path to the universal dashboard

Thompson admits that the universal dashboard still has some hurdles pass before becoming ubiquitous, arguing that it’s a matter of logistics, not technological capability, keeping it at bay.

“As application performance management becomes increasingly accessible, both to small organizations and large enterprises, I think we’ll see these become a staple of the workplace. Every company will have a mini-NASA command center distributed throughout the office,” says Thompson. “With the proper platform infrastructure in place to make this information available, the challenges for adoption are social and logistical, rather than technological.”

According to Scholnick, the solution lies in what he calls the “democratization” of application performance management (APM). With the emergence of software-as-a-service (SaaS) APM tools, developers can create plug-ins, hooking their software to these tools and providing customers with performance metrics and other feedback.

“Any IT environment can have hundreds or thousands of components. A vendor can only cover a small portion of that,” says Scholnick. “For example, if you build a monitoring hub, by building into New Relic’s platform, you can get access to 70,000 customers who could use this plugin that you write. The democratization of APM brought on by the cloud is making things happen at a totally different scale, a totally different order of magnitude, and that is making the dream of the dashboard possible.”