Portal upgrade with feedback from institutions
We launched the beta version of the SURFnet Network Dashboard about two years ago, in March 2016. Since then we have been continuously working to further develop the dashboard. The portal offers the institutions many options. They can view graphics for traffic statistics, and infrastructure managers can set up light paths from their own Multi Service Port (MSP) to another MSP. An MSP is a connection to the SURFnet network that allows several light paths to be set up at the same time. How do institutions rate the current dashboard? Does it meet their needs? And what would they like to see in future? As part of my Young Talent program at SURF, I have researched these questions. We are incorporating the input from the institutions into the enhancements to the SURFnet Network Dashboard.
Upgrading the SURFnet Network Dashboard
In the SURFnet8 project we are working on further developing the fixed section of the national education and research network. Both layers of the SURFnet network – the optical layer and the service layer – will be upgraded. The future network will be more flexible. The deployment of our own automation and orchestration framework plays an important role in this. The SURFnet Network Dashboard needs to interface with this, so that in time institutions will be able to exploit the capabilities offered by the framework. With this in mind, we are working on an upgrade to the current dashboard.
We are doing this in stages; some changes will be implemented in the near future, while others are planned for later dates. I will tell you more about these changes below. First I would like to tell you about the input from education and research institutions.
We conducted a survey of all education and research institutions, to find out how people are using the SURFnet Network Dashboard, and what they would like to see in future. We received responses from 25 institutions in various sectors – research institutions, research universities, universities of applied sciences, and senior secondary vocational education (MBO) institutions.
A summary of the results: respondents are generally satisfied with the SURFnet Network Dashboard. The dashboard is used primarily to monitor the status of the network. People with “infrastructure manager” and “infrastructure administrator” roles can view the status and usage of services and the traffic history. Their additional wishes include:
- Information about matters relating to security and cyber security. For this we will, for example, start displaying information about the number of packets per second. That can help detect DDoS attacks.
- Insight into the general status of the SURFnet network and that of their own connections. If there is a fault, in which part of the network is it located? Is the cause to be found at SURFnet or in the institution’s own network? In future, faults and maintenance activities on the SURFnet network will be shown automatically.
- The ability for them to assign names to connections and ports. This will be included in the next release. I will come back to this later on.
Interactive session during the Netwerkdag
To complement the survey, I organised an interactive session about the SURFnet Network Dashboard during the Netwerkdag 2017. Using mock-ups, we got into the details: when we display graphics, should they show activity over the last 8, 12, 24, or 48 hours? We also brainstormed about additional functions, such as the ability to assign your own names to services and ports.
- See the presentation: New features for the SURFnet Network Dashboard (PDF, in Dutch)
As you can see, there is plenty of input for the enhancement of the SURFnet Network Dashboard! We have split our plans into short-term and long-term. In the short term, we will develop a new front end. We expect the design for this to be completed by the end of March. After the front end is created, it will be integrated with our orchestration layer. The following things will definitely be included in the new front end:
- Live graphics of the connection(s). In the current SURFnet Network Dashboard, users have to click to navigate to see graphics. They will be displayed directly in the new front end.
- Comments field for each connection. Infrastructure managers and infrastructure administrators can add notes here and in this way assign their own names to connections and ports.
- Ability to print out and/or export graphics
- Visibility of faults and maintenance activities on the SURFnet network
- Ability to directly request an MSP. At present, infrastructure managers can already set up light paths from their own MSP to another MSP. Soon they will also be able to request MSPs in addition to light paths.
In future we want to work with modular units, which will make it easy to add new functions. That way we can respond flexibly to requests from users. Some points we intend to address in the longer term:
- Ability to personalise the dashboard: institutions can determine individually which information is displayed (enable/disable), and its layout.
- Providing insight in the status of requests: institutions can see the status of their request, what the next step is, and who is handling it. Along with requests for light paths and MSPs, this could include requests for IP connections, relocations and multipoint connections.
- Research ways to combine the current SURFnet Network Dashboard with SURFstats, eduroam monitoring and the SURFwireless portal.
These are just a few examples from our long list of ideas and wishes. The focus right now is on building the new front end, and on seamless integration of the dashboard with the automation and orchestration framework. After that we will continue with the implementation of the other items. Please send your suggestions for the further development of the SURFnet Network Dashboard to my colleague Richa Malhotra (firstname.lastname@example.org).