Ceph Dashboard Design Goals


This document is intended to provide a focal point for discussing the overall design principles for mgr/dashboard


Most distributed storage architectures are inherently complex and can present a management challenge to Operations teams who are typically stretched across multiple product and platform disciplines. In general terms, the complexity of any solution can have a direct bearing on the operational costs incurred to manage it. The answer is simple…make it simple :)

This document is intended to highlight Ceph Dashboard design goals which may help to

  • reduce complexity

  • increase productivity

  • improve time-to-value

  • increase observability

Understanding the Persona of the Target User

Ceph has historically been administered from the CLI. The CLI has always and will always offer the richest, most flexible way to install and manage a Ceph cluster. Administrators who require and demand this level of control are unlikely to adopt a UI for anything more than a technical curiosity.

The relevance of the UI is therefore more critical for a new SysAdmin, where it can help technology adoption and reduce the operational friction that is normally experienced when implementing a new solution.

Understanding the target user persona is therefore a fundamental first step in design. Attempting to design a UI that meets the requirements of a ‘seasoned’ Ceph Administrator or Developer, and a relatively new SysAdmin is unlikely to satisfy either user group.

Design Principles

Key Principles

  1. Clarity and consistency. The UI should ensure the data shown is unambiguous and consistent across different views

  2. Data timeliness. Data displayed in the UI must be timely. State information must be reasonably recent for it to be relevant and acted upon with confidence. In addition, the age of the data should be shown as age (e.g. 20s ago) rather than UTC timestamps to make it more immediately consumable by the Administrator.

  3. Automate through workflows. If the admin has to follow a ‘recipe’ to perform a task, the goal of the dashboard UI should be to implement the flow.

  4. Provide a natural next step. The UI is the expert system, so instead of expecting the user to know where they go next, the UI should lead them. This means linking components together to establish a flow and deeper integration between the alertmanager implementation and the dashboard elements enabling an Admin to efficiently step from alert to affected component.

  5. Platform visibility. The platform (OS and hardware configuration) is a fundamental component of the solution, so providing platform level insights can help deliver a more holistic view of the Ceph cluster.

  6. Jargon Busting. Jargon is an unavoidable component of most systems. However, a good system will include inline help to support new and infrequent users of the UI.

Common Pitfalls

  • Don’t re-implement CLI commands in the UI. The sysadmin will likely use the CLI primitives in scripts to automate tasks, so by simply adding a CLI feature we miss the workflow and add complexity, which potentially ‘bloats’ the UI.

  • Don’t think like a developer…try and adopt the mindset of an Administrator, who only works with the Ceph cluster part-time - this is the reality for today’s Operations teams.

Focus On User Experience

Ultimately, the goal must be to move away from pushing complexity onto the GUI user through multi-step workflows like iSCSI configuration or setting specific cluster flags in defined sequences. Simplicity should be the goal for the UI…let’s leave the complexity to the CLI.