We are very excited to bring to you the next installment for the Orion Maps project, and this one is jam packed with new features and enhancements. The team works very hard with careful consideration to ensure that each and every release delivers meaningful updates to a wide range of users, and this release is no different. I would apologize for the length of this post, but would you rather we just delivered... less?
The fact is that the Orion Platform and all its modules collect massive amounts of data about your environments. However, data is simply raw and unorganized and not very useful in its current state. Many of the features you will discover below were inspired by your requests, and represent how Orion Maps allows you to gain control over your data, giving it structure and organization, and transforming that data into information.
Therefore, much of what we will discuss are features designed to aid in constructing and customizing a map. These new features should help ensure you are able to take complex services or infrastructure, and visualize them in a way that is easily understood.
Taking a look at what's new in the Map Editor, the top of the screen will be home to a better equipped tool bar. Some of these tools were available in the previous release, but others have not been accessible until now. Hovering over each icon in the toolbar will provide a tool-tip/ description that should shed some light on some of the latest options.
Starting from left to right, the Zoom Level drop-down has been added so that users are able to easily determine the current zoom level of the map or quickly transition between them, as well as including descriptions to the keyboard shortcuts. Undo and Redo were options delivered in the last release, and will activate based on changes to the canvas. These should not be forgotten and can be extremely useful tools for any of those inevitable "oops" moments.
The Select All button is a very handy function designed to allow you to quickly grab key objects on a map which is great for bulk editing. Mitigating overhead and excessive clicks can really make it easier for you to use the tool, and limits time needed to perform standard tasks. The options consist of selecting all entities, like nodes, interfaces, applications, and so on, or selecting all shapes, images, and text/Labels!
The next option on the toolbar is the Layouts button. Currently, the default layouts (Force-directed, Grid, and Hierarchical) are similar to what you have seen before from the contextual maps available on any entity details page throughout Orion. Now available in the Map Editor, this tool is activated based on multi-selecting nodes on the canvas. In my example below, I threw a number of nodes out there and demonstrate what each of these options may look like in your environment.
Connect Objects is the next available tool on the list, and made its debut in the 2019.4 release. It has been extremely well received, allowing you to manually define topology connections through the map editor. If you are unfamiliar with this feature, I highly recommend reviewing the previous 2019.4 Product Blog for additional details:Orion Platform 2019.4 - Orion Maps is Now Available.
The following set of features in the tool bar will get a brief mention here, as we will discuss them more in depth once we dive into constructing a map and the new Properties Panel. Continuing in order from left to right, you will see Insert Rectangle, Insert Circle, and Insert Text/Label. Backing those up is an option for Alignment.
Shapes and text were highly requested features and really just make sense. It provides you the ability to visually group entities on the canvas, highlight critical areas, and of course provide clear context for maps that are very data dense. Along with customized text boxes, this ensures your vision is clearly understood and articulated with the right level of detail. Alignment makes editing easy, and offers you the ability to bring any image or shape forward or to the front, as well as backward or to the back. All of these functions are really about blending the "Visio" like functions from a design tool with those from a monitoring solution, alleviating the need to juggle between different tools. Going back and forth can be error prone and tedious, so rolling up all these features into a single tool is very exciting for our team to be able to deliver to you.
So far we have really just been warming up, and this is where we get to show off some serious functionality within the map editor. The best way to demonstrate these enhancements is to begin sort of where we left off in the last release. Below is an example of what you might see from a map I created in the 2019.4 version of Orion Maps. I have some Active Directory servers communicating with each other, hosted on different virtual infrastructure, tied to a segment of my network.
This could be a pretty cool representation of my Active Directory Service, but it would be nice to make some changes. We certainly have room for improvement, and I really wanted to add that wow factor. Each of you probably have your own ideas, and I will try to demonstrate as much as I can in an example we will build together.
Everything added to the canvas will now have a dedicated Properties Panel, designed to allow unique customization of each and every object on the map. The map as an entity itself is really no different, so we will begin there. Clicking on or selecting white space on the canvas will pull up the Maps Property Panel. There are limited changes here, but you will see a new section called Background that provides two options; Color and Image. These should be fairly self-explanatory but we will go through them none the less. As depicted in the images below, color, of course lets you choose from available options via a color picker, and image lets you incorporate any image of your choosing from your personal library.
The image section is similar to the insert image button provided in the toolbar, however, by choosing a background image, this automatically places the image of your choosing as the furthest back most element on the canvas. You can adjust the size and scale of the image, but it will not be a "selectable" element you can move around the canvas. The reason for this is to ensure your background image remains in place no matter what, and you can still take advantage of the built in lasso feature for multi-select without accidentally moving things when you don't want to. Pro-Tip: If you are creating a map that you want to be based on a background like a geographic map, the best option is to start with a background image itself. If you place entities first and then add a background, that background is added in the upper left area of the canvas, and you may need to move your entities up and to the left to place them over it. Hopefully this added flexibility is something you find useful. In the example we are building in this post, I will choose a color.
So far so good, but perhaps there are certain entities we could get to stand out a bit more, and maybe even certain icons that will make more sense for our users. It may also be worth while to adjust the text labels so they are not overlapping the connections, or even add more defining data to the map.
Selecting any entity individually or via any multi-select option will now bring up an Entity Properties Panel. You will see four expandable sections which are home to a myriad of new features and functions.
Let's walk through each section and make changes to our map.
A constant request from the previous release was the desire to be able to scale any and all entities on the map. Many of these visualizations often times are included in large dashboards and NOC views so ensuring that these maps are visible from a distance was a critical need. Size & Positioning is the first available section in the properties panel allowing you to adjust Height and Width, the X-Y Positioning, or even the Rotation. There is even a smart toggle for locking or unlocking the aspect ratio for specific situations. With the addition of the Properties Panel you now have the granular control necessary to perform changes individually or in bulk, alleviating the need to perform repeated tasks. Here is a capture of what both panels will look like when you are editing a single entity vs multiple.
When multi-selecting objects, any values that are the same across your selection will be visible. If there are contrasting values, then the attribute will just be marked with (multiple) to indicate there are clear differences between the objects. This can be extremely useful when your eye tells you something is aligned but the X or Y values are clearly different. You will also see a count of how many objects are selected in the header.
In the example map below, there are a few entities that we want to stand out over the rest as these are the most critical. Using the new feature we can adjust the scale of those objects.
The same Property Panel will be available for other objects such as images, which previously had a slider. This allows any sizing or positioning changes of any element to be pixel perfect.
The next section is the Text section of the Properties Panel. As you can see below, this section contains options you probably expected such as the ability to change font, size, color, and whether to make it bold or italicized. Fairly standard stuff and yet a few changes here can create a massive impact to the map!
The content section provides a box in which you can type whatever you want, but by default you will see a variable already there for "Display Name". What is unique here is that we have also incorporated the ability to add other values through the content picker. We wanted you to avoid having to memorize SWQL variables so when you select the + symbol next to content, a modal window will appear which provides a list of all possible variables that can be used. It is important to remember that as you multi-select objects on the canvas, this will impact what variables will be listed in the content picker. What will be shown will always be an intersection, or what values are similar, between the object types chosen. You can see below where we select all objects on the canvas and then customize the list to a specific set of entities. This provides a different set of available values to choose from.
Many of you mentioned the need to be able to add Custom Properties like location information to your maps. This can all be done through this tool with just a few clicks. You may have also noticed there are more options available beyond static data like Machine Type, or Description. We are also able to grab some of the performance metrics and add them to the map too.
In the example map we are building, I am going to add another value, but I want you to pay close attention to see if you notice anything different.
What you didn't see, was that before just clicking the "Insert Selected Properties" I held the Shift button, which included the prefix and units to the attribute being added. In this case, instead of adding just the value of 4, it added "Average Response Time: 4 ms". This provides unique flexibility and customization while eliminating the need for too many manual adjustments along the way.
One of my favorite pieces of functionality in this feature is the Position section which allows you to adjust where the text is anchored in relation to your entity. Watch as we take our messy map with overlapping data and give it some room to breathe.
You can see by adjusting the anchor position or alignment, you are able to get a much cleaner view of your map. Also included are options for Word Wrap, which allows you to wrap text based on the size of the entity (wrap to fit) or wrap to a very specific pixel width.
This particular enhancement was probably the number one feature request from all users based on feedback from the last release, and we are very excited to show you the depth of options it provides. At first glance the ICON section may not seem like much, however the available options make for super flexible customization's and extremely granular control.
The first item we come across is the radio button "Use Specified Icon". This will be automatically selected and highlight the default icon for each entity type as shown below. The mini-image will be blank if you are selecting multiple different entity types during bulk editing.
Expanding the drop-down will present a host of available icons to choose from or of course you may use the browse button to integrate and add your own! When incorporating your own images, upon selection, that image will also be added to the library for easy selection later.
Skipping ahead a bit, there is a section that controls a number of key attributes.
The Shape section lets you control whether or not a Status Shape exists around your entity. You can choose from Ellipse, Rectangle, Hexagon, or none, and the Icon % lets you specify exactly how much of the available space that icon or image in the center of the shape will consume. Of course if you chose none, the icon will just fit the specified size that was defined in the size and position section. The Show Status Badge toggle is an alternative option that will place a small status icon positioned to the bottom right of the entity. This is helpful in the event you don't want to use the status shapes around the entities and want something a little more subtle on the graph.
Pairing this with the Style section allows you to make even more adjustments. From the fill color inside the shape, to the border width, you have a variety of options. You can even change the border color to something specific if you don't want it representing status.
We could spend all day walking through different examples, but we will make some quick changes to our current map to highlight how easy it is to really impact the look and feel.
Sticking with the icon section for a moment, we still have another very unique option at our disposal. This is the ability to use specific icons for each individual status condition for your entities. Want "up" to be represented by a thumbs up icon but your "down" to be a skull and crossbones image? Need something different for "warning" status? In this release you really have ultimate control and flexibility.
Using our current map, I made some changes to a few of the status options by expanding the "Use Icons Based on Status" section. Similar to other options we already discussed, you can choose from a list, or import your own.
This can drastically change the design and how people interpret your map. Check out the difference after making the changes staged in the above screenshot!
Now that we have covered some significant updates within the Properties Panel, let's circle back with how those changes impact some of the functions previously mentioned in the tool bar. Again, many of these tools are all about blending the boundaries between graphing tool and monitoring solution. The functions such as insert rectangle or circle can be quite beneficial to add focus or context to your map. Text can clearly play a critical role as well, and both functions have a few more tricks up their sleeves.
When selecting either option, that shape or text box is placed in the upper left hand corner of the canvas. It can be selected and moved like any other object, and can be customized further using the new Properties Panels.
Circles and Rectangles will have size & position, text, style, and behavior sections in the panel. Rectangles will have an additional attribute under the style section for adding a corner radius to the shape. Text boxes will have size & position, but size is really adjusted through font size, as well as the text and behavior sections. The behavior section in particular allows you to include a Hyper-Link to anything you want. When you place this map in a widget or you are in View Mode (full screen interactive mode), clicking on this shape or text will automatically take your user to the specified hyper-link.
With the map we have been working on, I wanted to incorporate access to a more detailed network map from this one. However, I did not want to necessarily nest another map for access, as that maps' status would then roll up to effect the current map I am building. Check out the image below as we update our map a bit more, and to solve this dilemma, even integrate a direct link to the network map from a text box.
Here are a couple screenshots of our completed maps.
If you are still with me, we have truly saved the best for last. In general, our monitoring tools are used to obtain data and performance statistics about our environments and inform the business about potential issues and their impact. If delivery of a particular service fails, we use NPM, NTA, or SAM as an example, to identify root cause as well as ensure preventative measures are then put in place. By aggregating data in a map, we are able to provide meaningful context and clarity to our data, which ensures the totality of what it takes to deliver that service is easily understood.
While maps are ideal for a deeper look into issues that are occurring right now, in reality, the vast majority of troubleshooting is often performed as a reactive task. What happens when we are being told about something that happened in the past? What happens when we come into the office on Monday and discover something occurred over the weekend and our boss is asking us for details?
This latest release of maps not only brings all the items discussed so far, but the team has also been able to deliver Time Travel. This was a bit of a late edition so unfortunately I was unable to use the same map we built up to this point in the post, but I was able to put together a pretty compelling example. Below I am reviewing a particular map of my network, in which I am being told the last occurrence of this issue was 7 days ago. Some users where having intermittent issues from a particular site, and my team is being asked to come up with answers. Check out how I am able to click the View History button, adjust the timeline and identify a some status changes of my map.
By clicking on the entity in question from the historical map, we automatically generate a performance analysis of that object an hour before, and an hour after the time stamp selected. In the screenshot above, we are then able to drill down using PerfStack to discover that a few critical interfaces were having issues at that time. While a fairly simple example, this is still a great representation of what you now control by combining the power of the two great features. Just imagine what you could do in your environment.
As you can see, there are quite a lot of possibilities for improving the visualization of your data. For those of you that haven't already left and began the upgrade to get going in your environment, check out the post on a Gateway to Your Fastest Upgrade Ever! Here are other screenshots of examples as I tinkered with the new feature set. Hopefully these provide some inspiration.
As always we are eager to see examples of what you come up with and the unique ways in which you all take advantage of the fantastic new enhancements that have been added in this release. While packed full of new features, we are always wanting to do more. Please share your feedback, your maps, and what would be next on your list of requirements.
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