Designing Device Interfaces

As consumers we are incredibly discerning. We sense where has been great care in the design, and when there is cynicism and greed.”
Jonathan Ive.

Over the years, I’ve created interface specifications for many devices, element managers and network managers (NE/EMS/NMS). Some have been very easy to figure out. Others have been highly complex.

Today, I’m going to visit this from a slightly different angle. I’m going to look at it from the device manufacturer’s perspective and theorise what their key considerations might be. I have three major trains of thought when doing this hypothetical piece:

Number 1: Keep it simple and consistent. As the vendor, you want to put yourself in the shoes of whoever is going to be using this interface. As such, you want the interface to be common (eg SNMP, XML, etc), well documented, easy to pull sample data from for test purposes, make programming libraries readily available and ensure consistency across all domains (ie alarms, performance, inventory, provisioning, AAA). In this model, you want the user pumping up your brand via word of mouth due to your attention to their detail. To borrow from Joe Sparano, “Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.”

Number 2: Create a money-spinner. As a vendor, you know that in almost all cases your customers will buy your product for the purpose of carrying their communications traffic and the management interfaces will be an afterthought. As such, it would be tempting to turn your management interfaces into a value-add to up-sell to your customer. The up-sell could be in the form of documentation, programmatic libraries, interface agent licenses, consultancy, etc. To be honest, I’m thinking that the customer would be feeling a sense of “cynicism and greed” if I proposed this model. Having said that, it is common practice amongst vendors.

Number 3: Create a revolutionary data transfer model based on SDN. Effectively this is taking Number 1 to a new level of simplicity and is more like an absorption of data between the control and management planes rather than a traditional interface that needs mediation between the NE/EMS/NMS and the OSS.

Which way of thinking would you be aligning to, or do you have another alternative?

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