Cloud Cockpit – Past, Present and Future, an Inside Look
Chances are high, you have used the Cloud Cockpit already. If not, you can try it here. It’s the central web UI to manage your HCP accounts, applications and configuration.
When I am using products more regularly I typically enjoy reading about the details that are not so obvious, plans, exciting new features and the like. If you are also like that, this post is for you. I want to share a bit of background on the Cloud Cockpit and what we have been working on.
Some very quick facts about me: with SAP since 2008, with HCP since day 1, technical lead for initial phases of developments like the mail service, HTML5 infrastructure & Fiori as a Service, product owner of the Cockpit since 2015 with an incredibly awesome team. The Cockpit itself is actually a framework with a central core and multiple teams contributing to it. Product owning includes, besides drinking too much coffee, vision, planning, priorities, cross-team and stakeholder communication, trying not to loose grip on the technical inner workings of the product.
Looking back at 2015 that was a phenomenal year where we tackled some very difficult challenges. On our quest to modernize the UI, focus and simplify, we quickly encountered limits with the UI5 desktop library that we used until then. It became obvious that while restructuring the content we also needed to switch to UI5 mobile. That is easily said, but back then the Cockpit had already more than 70 individual and often quite complex content pages, constantly adding more. Let’s compare two sample pages from the Cockpit:
On the left you see the old theme and structure, which basically consisted of individual self-contained panels with their own views and controllers. On the right side you see the new approach, new theme, introduction of breadcrumbs, header/footer, common action header etc. If you are also using Web IDE or HCI you see similar patterns emerge. Viewing the whole content more holistically we decided to abandon the self-containedness (is that a word?) and structure the page with only one controller, that can feed multiple XML fragments (another change we made along the way, switching from JS views to XML, I can only recommend that for a clean separation of concerns).
Because of the magnitude of these changes we knew there cannot be the one big change that rules them all, but we would have to live with a rather long transition period. When you open the Cockpit today, you will still find areas that need to be migrated, but we are on a good way. Oftentimes we use the chance to rethink interaction paradigms and incorporate customer feedback we got so far while doing that.
But not only technology and UIs changed a lot, also the content got much broader. You can now create and manage ECM & GIT repositories, check the status of your cloud connector and your destinations, administrate databases better, install and upgrade HANA components, bulk-add members and enter comments for them, have a much nicer trial account creation flow, easily enable and configure additional services and much much more.
One thing that you might have stumbled across on SCN are blogs about Cloud Foundry, like this one. It is enabling us to provide exciting new capabilities. HCP with that flavor powers the Siemens Cloud for Industry. If you think about how to access these capabilities in HCP it seems like a no-brainer that also the Cockpit should support you there. And this was the second huge undertaking we did in 2015. We developed an enterprise-grade feature set to manage orgs, spaces, apps, services and more.
Some concepts also heavily influenced the Cockpit as you are using it today. So far you always worked in the context of one account. In Cloud Foundry, there is the notion of a hierarchy with the concept of a space that is contained inside an org. This is a nice concept for grouping and we decided to expose this also to the existing Cockpit. There is now an additional level which shows your global account that contains all your accounts. If you are a partner for example and member in multiple global accounts of your customers you now get a much better separation. We also used the chance to show quota information directly on the global account level so that you can quickly see if you are somewhere running into trouble.
We are now one month into 2016, preliminary planning was done, cookies were eaten, motivational speeches were made, so what can you expect?
Big disclaimer: the ideas I am describing in this blog represent our current state of thinking/planning and should not be mistaken as an official commitment from SAP and not be the basis for buying decisions.
We have been listening a lot to customer feedback on various channels, be it through TechEds, CodeJams, Twitter, SCN, customer visits, calls, personal contacts and of course also SAP-internally. One request I heard most often was that it is really difficult to use the members list since it does not display names. A bummer. We know. For privacy reasons we had to do some work in the background first.
One thing we did and which turned out to be really appreciated by many customers is the What’s New functionality that comes up automatically after a new release. We might expand on that even further, potentially including enabled services as well. The OnBoading and first-start experience was and still is a big topic for us and we will invest here. Services play a vital role to HCP so probably this will be an area to watch. Applications are currently split by technology (e.g. HTML5 and Java), that is something we are rethinking. Fiori is up for some big changes which will almost certainly influence us. Favorites could be more versatile. The log viewer a bit nicer. Dashboards more useful…
And let’s not forget all the super-secret things that are yet to come and which you can expect to surface in 2016. Will it be an exciting year? You can bet. Will we listen to your feedback? Most definitely. So please don’t hesitate to bring up ideas or suggestions for improvements, point out things that could make you more productive and the like. I hope you enjoyed this small look behind the scenes and feel invited to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Oh, and there is one more thing: member names, you can see them now 🙂