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You Can Observe A Lot By Watching.

Usability Testing at CiscoLive!

Usability testing a support mobile page at the NetVet lounge with NetVet Mike Williams.

Recently at CiscoLive!, we spent a full week with customers and partners doing in-detail usability tests of and some of our mobile sites and apps. This is one of the main methods we use to make our web and mobile easier.

What’s a usability test? Something different than you might think. While you’ve probably heard of other research techniques like focus groups and surveys, usability tests and listening labs are a way for us to learn through observing how people use our sites: We have someone sit down in front of the screen and ask them to do a task that they would in their real work day. This could be solving a support question, researching a new product, finding the right download, investigating a new API, or any number of other things.

Here’s the difference between a usability test vs. a focus group or survey: In a focus group, a facilitator often throws out an idea or scenario and gets a group of people to comment on it. The people in the room will tell you what they might like… they will build on others comments… they may give you some great ideas! But, you won’t really be learning by observing. You won’t understand the kinds of things they will actually do in real life, because you’re asking them what they think they would do. You aren’t observing.

But when we observe people using our mobile apps or web sites, we can see lots of things. For instance:

  • We can see the areas that trip them up (even if they report to us that the experience is just fine)
  • We can see the areas where they’re getting the wrong result (even if they think they’re getting the right one).
  • Or sometimes even technical problems that we see and can troubleshoot, but they can’t.

We recommend running usability tests or listening labs at multiple stages for major projects:

  • At the beginning of the project – when you want to understand current state and also look at how competitive or best practice sites and apps are doing.
  • In the middle – while you’re still developing, and direct observation and feedback can make a huge difference
  • Before release – so you can catch any last-minute problems
  • After release – because sometimes when outside factors and environments affect the app or web experience in way you can’t expect (for instance, how and whether people can find your site topic on Google or other search engines, and how they interact with the results).

Even though this sounds like a lot of testing, there are some new techniques you can use to get real user feedback very quickly – within hours or days. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Meanwhile, keep testing. And, remember baseball legend Yogi Berra, who said:

“You can observe a lot by watching!”

Yogi Berra

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The Network After 25 Years of Cisco Live!

#clus1A lot can change in 25 years. At the first Cisco Live (then known as Networkers conferences) in 1989, 200 geeks gathered for the inaugural event. Fast forward to three weeks ago, when we welcomed a whopping 25,000 attendees into the arms of our namesake, beautiful San Francisco.

We heard there was some interest in how the network performed at the show, so I wanted to share some of the interesting statistics about the network at Cisco Live! I shudder at the thought of the ancient network from 25 years ago. So here we go:

Wi-Fi Client Devices

This year we saw 30,705 unique devices, with 7000 in the theater for John Chambers’ keynote.

# of Unique Clients

# of Sessions

# of Unique Users

# of Unique APs

Avg Users per AP






Max. Concurrent Connected Wi-Fi Devices

There was a peak of 14216 concurrently connected device at SF this year.

clients2 Read More »

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Next Generation Data Center Design With MDS 9710 – Part II

Note: This is the second of a three-part series on Next Generation Data Center Design with MDS 9700; learn how customers can deploy scalable SAN networks that allow them to Scale Up or Scale Out in a non disruptive way.  Part 1 | Part 3 ]

EMC World was wonderful. It was gratifying to meet industry professionals,  listen in on great presentations and watch the demos for key business enabling technologies that Cisco, EMC and others have brought to fruition.  Its fascinating to see the transition of DC from cost center to a strategic business driver . The same repeated all over again at Cisco Live. More than 25000 attendees, hundreds of demos and sessions. Lot of  interesting customer meetings and MDS continues to resonate. We are excited about the MDS hardware that was on the display on show floor and interesting Multiprotocol demo and a lot of interesting SAN sessions.

Outside these we recently did a webinar on how Cisco MDS 9710 is enabling High Performance DC design with customer case studies. You can listen to that here.

Three Pillars of ReliabilitySo let’s continue our discussion. There is no doubt when it comes to High Performance SAN switches there is no comparable to Cisco MDS 9710. Another component that is paramount to a good data center design is high availability. Massive virtualization, DC consolidation and ability to deploy more and more applications on powerful multi core CPUs has increased the risk profile within DC. These DC trends requires renewed focus on availability. MDS 9710 is leading the innovation there again. Hardware design and architecture has to guarantee high availability. At the same time, it’s not just about hardware but it’s a holistic approach with hardware, software, management and right architecture. Let me give you some just few examples of the first three pillars for high reliability and availability.


Reliability examples in MDS



MDS 9710 is the only director in the industry that provides Hardware Redundancy on all critical components of the switch, including fabric cards. Cisco Director Switches provide not only CRC checks but ability to drop corrupted frames. Without that ability network infrastructure exposes the end devices to the corrupted frames. Having ability to drop the CRC frames and quickly isolate the failing links outside as well as inside of the director provides Data Integrity and fault resiliency. VSAN allows fault isolation, Port Channel provides smaller failure domains, DCNM provides rich feature set for higher availability and redundancy. All of these are but a subset of examples which provides high resiliency and reliability.


Weakest link


We are proud of the 9500 family and strong foundation for reliability and availability that we stand on. We have taken that to a completely new level with 9710. For any design within Data center high availability  has to go hand in hand with consistent performance. One without the other doesn’t make sense. Right design and architecture with DC as is important as components that power the connectivity. As an example Cisco recommend customers to distribute the ISL ports of an Port Channel across multiple line cards and multiple ASICs. This spreads the failure domain such that any ASIC  or even line card failures will not impact the port channel connectivity between switches and no need to reinitiate all the hosts logins. You can see white paper on Next generation Cisco MDS here. At part of writing this white paper ESG tested the Fabric Card redundancy (Page 9) in addition to other features of the platform. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.


Geschäftsmann hat Wut, Frust und Ärger im Büro


The most important aspect for all of this is for customer is to be educated.

Ask the right questions. Have in depth discussions to achieve higher availability and consistent performance. Most importantly selecting the right equipment, right architecture and best practices means no surprises.

We will continue our discussion for the Flexibility aspect of MDS 9710.



-We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit (Aristotle)


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There’s a nice article by Web analysts SiteIQ this month about search, with the flattering headline “Cisco aces search again…” The post points out how we do little things like how we:

1. Link to Google for more search, in case you didn’t find what you were looking for, or if you want a second opinion…

Site Search 5-15-2014 6-00-45 AM

2. Collect the highest-value links at the top of a page…

Site Search 5-15-2014 6-00-20 AM

3. Offer search directly from our megamenus….

Site Search 5-15-2014 5-58-07 AM

 It’s an interesting short article worth a read. Enjoy!

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The Future of Wireless: Times are Changing Before Our Eyes

We live in amazing times, ask anyone who ever had to look up a phone number in a phone book. In the past this was the only way you could find the number to your favorite restaurant if you wanted to make a reservation. Today, all we need to do is reach into our pocket or purse and grab our mobile device, open an application and in a few seconds (not minutes) we have the phone number. Not only that, but we can see the menu and make a reservation right from the device. Over time we have become dependent on carrying the world (both personal and professional) in our pocket. With mobility, we are always on, always connected: nothing—whether it’s your team’s latest score or that email from a vendor you need to send to your boss—is more than a quick search away.

What once seemed unfathomable, this way of always being connected is now commonplace. However, as the application developers sit and think of the next killer app, the IT team has to make sure the network can not only support this new app, but also assure the performance meets the higher and higher demands of new apps. This requires the network to be more application-aware. And the reality is that more applications that require higher network performance are coming at a faster rate. Add to it new devices that use these applications are becoming accessible to everyone. On top of that, the people that use these applications and devices are becoming more demanding in terms of reliability and experience. So what is an IT person to do?

“We were ahead of the times,” says Joseph Tufano, VP and CIO of St. John’s University. “But times have changed. You see it everywhere: for example, if you go to a basketball game on campus, and there’s a timeout, everybody is using their mobile devices.”

IT is always working to increase the wireless performance of the network. However, as more bandwidth becomes available, users increase their usage and consume that bandwidth. Read More »

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