The Ever-Elusive Single Pane of Glass

A Single Pane of Glass (SPoG) gets promoted as a feature, but that first word is the hardest part to achieve.

The Ever-Elusive Single Pane of Glass

The single pane of glass (SPoG) is a feature that has been promoted in product presentations from various vendors for decades. Bringing all of the relevant information that a person needs into a single interface is like the Holy Grail of systems management. At points, the feature has been so commonly raised that "single pane of glass" has become an entry in various IT-related Buzzword Bingo card and drinking games.

This makes sense. Everyone wants the feature, so the vendors attempt to deliver... but there is a key difference between product vendors and IT . Vendors, for the most part, place a focus on their own products and ecosystems, while IT is concerned about its own environments. These seldom line up unless a single-vendor environment is in play, and the single-vendor environment is as much an ideal scenario as the SPoG itself.

More often than not, we wind up with one overview interface to the wired network, another for the wireless network, another for the security infrastructure, another for storage, another for servers, and another for the cloud. Multiple SPoGs are the oxymoronic reality of our management infrastructure today.

The Application Program Interface Breakthrough

Automation and orchestration are becoming huge concerns in IT  as our operations begin to scale into the cloud. Doing everything manually via CLIs and GUIs was never an ideal way to manage things and it certainly wasn't scalable to the level that we are beginning to require. Programmability has become mainstream. With programmability, API interfaces to IT infrastructure are starting to become the primary interface to new products, with the CLIs and GUIs just being clients to the API.

With programmability, information gathering for purposes of creating that multi-product, multivendor SPoG becomes easier, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves yet.

The myth of the SPoG has been called out before and standardized APIs have been proposed as a solution, but let's face it, we’re not all programmers here.

Bring It Together

To get that single pane of glass, we need to be able to bring the pieces together easily. It starts with standardized access to the base data, but it also needs tools so that it can be more easily put together, such as:

  • APIs
  • Standardized visualization frameworks (Grafana, Kibana, Graphite, etc.)
  • Visualization widgets from product vendors
  • Consumable examples

The Whisper in the Wires

We're closer than we've ever been before to having SPoGs, but until we have a more presentation-centric and less product-centric approach, it's still just that little bit out of reach. We need to ask our product vendors to give us the bricks to build our own view of our infrastructure. API access to everything is a beginning but adding higher-level widgets that we can more easily assemble will go a long way to making the SPoG a reality.

In the meantime, my Buzzword Bingo sheet is now full and I'm going to go and have a drink.

Originally published on the Aruba Blogs site.