As evidenced from my first post on the “product lifecycle”, it is a big topic, but today I want to focus on an aspect of that topic which is currently being discussed in engineering.
This year OSIsoft will be introducing some new products and many updates. As with many product releases and updates, there is significant interest from partners and customers to get ahold of early bits. From OSIsoft’s point of view, quality feedback on early bits is critical to scoping features and testing efforts and a successful product launch. Our traditional practice is to post CTP or Beta bits for download on vCampus or on the support site. There may be additional criterion which qualifies a partner or customer for access to these bits but ultimately the bits make it to there destination and they may be installed in a timely manner if at all. Then, feedback may come. We have always been fortunate that a few energetic individuals dive in and provide significant feedback on the whole experience – for their effort, they usually get to meaningful steer the product. This process is not “efficient” and the ideal of sending out multiple CTP’s over a short period of time is daunting to everyone. But the potential value cannot be underestimated…
So, how can we maximize the overall value?
As hopefully everyone is aware, managed PI (mPI) now uses a technology (PI Agent…name will change) to securely connect on premise systems with the OSIsoft Network Operating Center (NOC). This channel allows us to gather PI System health and performance data (currently only available to EA customers). It also allows us to update the agent itself. Another feature which is not currently is use is the ability to distribute bits and potentially install/upgrade and configure those bits. In addition, these “applications” can send usage logs such as installation logs, feature usage, failure logs and other critical telemetry which would give our developers an intimate picture of how their product is being used and how it is behaving.
Now, what we are considering is using the mPI secure connect channel as the only vehicle to obtain CTP and Beta bits. It would work like this…if you want to participate in a CTP/Beta, you would have to download and register a PI Agent on the test machine. If you are already an mPI customer you may choose to join your current secure connection or configure a parallel channel for this purpose. When OSIsoft drops new bits, they will automatically be installed on your test system. Initially we are not considering any workflow on your side beyond sending an email a day or so before the event – clearly you will want a non product system for this. Through this approach, we will get comprehensive telemetry about our products without your direct feedback. Of course, there will be feedback we want from you which cannot be so easily instrumented – in particular the end user experience – like feelings (yes, OSI software engineers care about your feelings).
Of course we would like to make this available for Release products as well which we intend to do, but we also realize that we will need to provide legacy product distribution mechanisms (read pull technology or even DVD) for a while. We also realize that for Released products we need to provide strict workflow so that you have control over what and when things happen.
As with all of my posts, I encourage…okay, maybe even crave your feedback and thoughts on these topics. (If you have thoughts that you don’t want to share in public, please send me a direct communication.)
So…is this too “big brother”? Do the hundreds of existing deployments of our secure channel agent make this less daunting? Are you thinking…”about time”? What if the only way for vCampus users to get bits was through this mechanism?