Roadmap for 2017


#1

Sonar reached version 1.0 at the end of 2016. On our path towards 1.0, we've brought over 150 ISPs around the world onto the Sonar platform, and we're looking forward to the next 150!

Getting to 1.0 required us to meet a minimum feature set that we felt was needed in a comprehensive billing and OSS. Feedback has been overwhelming positive to the features we've built, but there are a lot of features we didn't complete due to time constraints, and I'd like to share our roadmap for 2017 with you now, which will take us towards 2.0 and completion of those missing features.

Before the end of Q2, we'll be releasing three major updates. The first one will be an electronic contract management module, that will allow you to collect contract signatures electronically, as well as track contract expirations. The second will be a comprehensive update to our billing system, that will add many requested features, as well as simplifying a lot of complex tasks, and increasing the performance of the billing engine itself. The final update for Q2 will be a significant update to the network monitoring system, which will enable automatic detection of network topology, a geographical view of the network state on the map, and many more advanced monitoring features.

Before the end of 2017, we also plan to release a number of other modules. These modules will include a query reporting tool, which will provide a graphical interface to build custom reports, significant improvements to the CRM to enable more sales features, a project management tool, and many more minor improvements and changes. We will also spend time sifting through our customer requests list, to implement many of the great suggestions that have been made by our customers.

One aspect of reaching Sonar 2.0 is also maintaining our commitment to keep our platform at the cutting edge of technology. You can expect to see continued improvement to the user interface, as well as numerous performance improvements on the back end, and further improvements to our API - we're keeping a close eye on technologies like GraphQL!

Sonar 1.1 will be out relatively soon, and will bring the first of these updates - the electronic contract management module. Stay tuned for videos and documentation on this feature as we get closer to release!


#2

Great news on the visual reports! Good to see you are growing too! I’d make a wild guess at the partnership and I’ll probably be right but I’ll keep my mouth shut…

Also any work for 2017 on the standalone version?


#3

Steven,

I think it is unlikely at this point we will offer a standalone version. It’s not completely out of the question, but it’s not something we have a focus on right now.


#4

To clarify, This bit will allow us to see up/down status (among other things) for our network on the map? That would be super useful!

Keep on rocking it forward! I love this stuff!! \m/


#5

Yes, that’s exactly what it will add. We’re doing some work on the map now to improve the performance of large maps, and after that, we’ll be adding the ability to see a lot of network state information there.


#6

I have more difficulty keeping my mouth shut, even when I know nothing.

Auvik doesn’t have visual up/down indication, but it does have the best mapping I’ve seen. And Kentik for netflow… one can dream.


#7

Can we get the highlights on the planned billing update? We’re struggling a little to build a migration plan and perhaps you have the solution already in the queue.

Also, is it possible that Dependency Awareness and/or Root Cause Analysis for monitoring and alerting will be in that Monitoring update? i.e. some way to visibly see what the failure point is, not just the mass of everything offline behind it. We’ve done some work to build this into our current setup, and it would be excellent not to loose it in the transition.

Thanks!


#8

Peter,

The list is pretty long, it’s probably easier if you let me know what you are seeing as a deficiency right now, and I can let you know if we’re going to be addressing that.

Can you expand on your network monitoring question with the specifics on what you’d like to see there?


#9

I’m excited for the billing update. Is there a tentative release date on that?


#10

It’ll be before the end of Q2. Nothing more specific than that yet, but I’ll keep everyone updated as time progresses.


#11

Billing:
Most of our troubles center on the role of Services in Sonar. I can see the reasoning for it to date, but they are just so thin at present: not holding inventory, IPs, locations, notes, speeds, quantities, custom fields, or really any kind of rich data at all.

The first major hurdle is the reliance on an account to give location, IP, and traffic data to a service. We have over two hundred services sharing at least one other data service on the account, almost always at a different location. I understand how this can be overcome by all of those accounts being shattered into children, but given that (as far as i can see) each location would also need to have and manage it’s own client area login / contact email for ticket management and self service, and any notes or ancillary data do not roll up or otherwise get aggregated, that starts to look less and less viable.

The second and much harder hurdle is in the lack of any kind of quantity billing. For example, we bill voip customers based on number of seats of various kinds, and I cannot see any way to make that change reliably given that services don’t contain quantities or costs per unit. Conceivably we could add or remove whole services that were each one seat, or maintain all of the pricing logic in some 3rd system that overwrote both the price and the item name every month with the updates, but neither of those seem like quality options. We have a variety of services that are much easier to handle by scaling up or down the standard per/unit rate, and at present we would either need to make a unique service for every variation, or again abandon Sonar having any real knowledge of our pricing and just writing it in from outside. (That is without touching on upload and download speed quantity pricing, which I can understand is a much more complicated question from a provisioning standpoint.)

Lastly, there is no concept of a customer’s “Order” for new services or even the start date of a service, outside of its billing. I can see how to manage a sales process using the Lead status and similar, but as soon as you want to add services to an existing account, or even sell multiple services that will be delivered on different dates, it totally breaks down. Best I can see would be taking the sales funnel “offline” and tracking pending services separately, before entering them into the system only on turn-up, but that destroys much of the value of the unified system with contracting built in.

In a different vein, the combo of monthly-only billing and paid/unpaid as an account-level not service level concept means I cannot see any way to manage domain registration and renewals out of Sonar, of which we have several hundred currently. (through ENOM)

(other significant but more minor issues exist as well, like lack of custom fields on services means we cannot authoritatively translate old system services to new system services, as there is no good place to store that data, and total ambiguity over device/ip/service relationship, for a customer with a CPE and two on-site PtP radios that we manage.)


Network:
You’ve got a really nice thing going with the ICMP and SNMP poller, logging, triggering, and schedules, but there are three essential (albeit difficult) components missing: Map Status display, dependency trees, and root-cause analysis in alerting.

Mapped status -
We still use and are forced to maintain The Dude simply because almost nothing else gives you such an effective status “christmas tree”. It sounds like your upcoming additions to the “Map” display may solve this problem though, depending on the details.

Dependency Trees -
If monitoring has no concept of “failure by device” vs “Failure Upstream”, any view you look at will be a haystack of red, with the one important needle tossed in the mix. On-tower and CPE-AP dependencies are definitely nice, but tower-to-tower dependencies are pretty much essential. “Problem at Location C - 85 services affected” is way more useful than “125 devices currently offline”

Root Cause Analysis -
This goes pretty deep, but at the most basic is simply making use of the dependency data, to whatever granularity it exists, to at least show the closest-to-root problems and hide issues that that are child results. At the best case, a warning level ICMP (etc.) result on a CPE triggers a retest of the parents back to root, looking for the point of greatest quality drop, raising that to alerting while suppressing downstream issues it likely caused. We’ve done some work on this in house that I’d be happy to share if it seems useful.

Hopefully that’s useful detail,
Thanks!


#12

Peter,

Thanks for the detailed write up, that’s very helpful. I’m not sure we’re going to overcome every single one of these in 1.2 and 1.3, but some (like the quantities and recurring billing periods per service, for example) will definitely be solved.

I’ll keep you updated as things progress.


#13

Just an update on this - as usual, things move around as real life happens! The billing overhaul is taking a little longer than we thought, but the map update is moving more quickly than expected, so you’ll see that sooner rather than later. It won’t have all the network infrastructure layout just yet, but this is the first stage of getting a workable map to deploy that on later.

The performance has been improved dramatically - on a fairly beefy machine, we’ve been able to render about 125,000 points at a workable framerate. We’re adding quite a few more filters to the map as well, so it should be a good upgrade while we keep working on the next modules.

Hope you have all been enjoying the features in 1.1 so far… lots more coming soon. We’ll be showing the map, and possibly a few other new items, at WISPAmerica in March, so stop by!


#14

“significant improvements to the CRM to enable more sales features” - Can you elaborate on this at this time? We just had a big discussion yesterday to look at how we could possibly ditch our current CRM (Base) and operate completely out of Sonar. There are some issues for sure, but not large enough to stop us.

Because this is a hot item for us and we are always looking for ways to centralize our information into one place (Sonar), it would be nice to know what you guys are thinking about implementing in relation to CRM / Sales functionality this year. Thanks in advance.


#15

It’s not fully baked yet, it’s still something we need to do some research on. If you have specific needs, please share them, we’ll be soliciting more feedback as we get closer to working on that upgrade.


#16

Sounds good. I’ll find some time to share them here if I can. I filled out the survey for the Network Update and will do the same for this update when you send it out.


#17

I just want some buttons on the top for commonly accessed items. Hotlinks so to speak so I don’t need to delve into menus. Dashboard etc.


#18

We’d love to ditch our ancient version of Goldmine and get everything in one place as well. I’m happy to offer feedback when the time comes.


#19

What’s the plan for the rest of 2017?


#20

Probably nothing major at this point. The last items we had for 2017 are being rolled up into the next major release, which will have the aforementioned GraphQL API and a number of other improvements. I will have more information as we get into 2018 on a timeline.