Post: A “Single Pane of Glass” Dashboard

four application users looking at one laptop

A “Single Pane of Glass” Dashboard

The concept of a “single pane of glass” dashboard was a topic of a recent post by SQL Server Central blogger Steve Jones.

This is originally a DevOps concept, the idea being that when you work using a continuous development/deployment model, you need one single source of truth for monitoring your activity end to end, across networks, applications, databases and servers. Jones describes it as “a holistic view of your portion of the organization.”

That makes a lot of sense. If something in a release is not working, you may not receive a notification about it. A “single pane” dashboard view of system activity can help DevOps teams by reducing the time spent trying to locate which tier is the source of the problem.

There are great APM tools that can provide real-time metrics and alerts for system health. But, at least in the blogosphere, IT folks seem pessimistic about the feasibility of implementing a “single pane” for their systems. Rapid technology change and the move to the cloud make it hard to keep a single, real-time view. An article in The Register quotes one manager’s assessment of the challenge “I could have services running in 150 different data centres around the world, but can I actually do anything with a dashboard that shows me this?”

A Better Use of a Single Pane Dashboard

Perhaps “a single pane” would be more valuable to end users. A new generation of integration products can seamlessly report against multiple data sources, for example by combining an HR benchmark like absenteeism rates with supply chain metrics like average delivery times.

With a single pane approach, each user role would access the exact same dashboard, not something customizable. That may seem counter intuitive. Today’s self-service dashboards are designed to make customization and data discovery easy for end users. But a single pane dashboard can help keep everyone on a team aware of the most important metrics and statuses. This is the type of dashboard that could be mounted on a wall in a department office or be the first page users land on post-sign on.

When you have access to very granular analytics, it’s easy to chase them down that rabbit hole looking for data insights. That’s still important. However, it’s also important to have a shared view of the day’s most critical metrics. A dashboard can track our activity and alert us of problems, but it’s only helpful if someone actually looks at it.

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