A Faster, More Powerful RightScale Dashboard

In recent months we’ve refreshed three sections of the RightScale dashboard: Last September, we released a UI for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Simple Queue Service (SQS), and in February we released updated UIs for AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) and Simple Storage Service (S3). You can access the new sections by selecting their respective pages from the Clouds menu and clicking the “Try it out” button in the purple notification bar. The new beta interfaces are not only a significant improvement compared to our previous UIs, but also represent a new approach to our UI framework that will enhance future RightScale development.

When you explore any of the new UIs, you’ll notice a number of improvements. Much of the tabular functionality that previously required server requests is now handled on the client side, smoothing the entire UI experience. Some of the highlights:

  • We now do filtering and column sorting on the client side, and it happens instantly.
  • We’ve unified bulk and single actions in one menu.
  • Tables can now hold a large number of entries, reducing or eliminating the need for pagination.
  • Large tables no longer wrap or require horizontal scrolling. Overflow ends with an ellipsis, and mousing over it shows the entire contents in a tooltip.
  • Multi-select options for entries like security groups now use a widget based on Chosen, which allows both mouse and keyboard-driven entry.
  • We support in-place, client-side editing for ELB info, health checks, and listeners.
  • We provide an HTML5 multiple-file uploader for S3.
  • A fixed right sidebar displays additional file characteristics when users select a file in the S3 browser.
TKTKTKTK Updated S3 UI with our new HTML5 uploader


A New Framework

Many of these features take advantage of key components of our new UI framework. Like many companies that provide web-based services, RightScale uses JQuery, which opens up a large number of exciting JavaScript libraries. Our core UI library is built on Bootstrap, a common UI framework that we use for a variety of components, such as modal dialogs, popovers, and tooltips. We have also modified and deployed Datatables, a framework that gives us fast and flexible tables that can manipulate large amounts of data. These JQuery libraries, along with several smaller libraries, give us a base that we continue to adapt in our new UIs.

Perhaps the most exciting component of our new UI framework is Backbone.js, a library for building single-page apps that allows us to move much of the logic that was previously server-side into client-side JavaScript. This means that users can manipulate data using JavaScript without having to wait for a server to respond. For example, in the ELB browser, users can add a new listener on the client side, and the back end will sync the changes without forcing the users to view a loading screen. Backbone also allows users to move through a variety of “pages” seamlessly, without having to endure the page load times common to traditional websites.

These libraries provide the foundation for our UI framework, but we have done considerable additional work to create a cohesive collection of libraries that we can use to quickly and easily create future UIs. In particular, cloud services from one provider will be able to share UI functionality with comparable services on other clouds from another when the two are similar — Rackspace Cloud Files and AWS S3, for instance. This framework has already increased the speed of application development; during a recent internal development challenge, a small team of our developers was able to create a new internal monitoring page in a matter of hours.

Our new framework also separates logical areas of the dashboard into separate, individual web applications that can communicate with one another and share resources. As a result, we can quickly incorporate feedback, address bugs, and iterate on features in one application with less risk of causing problems in another. As an example, today we are rolling out a series of bug fixes to our ELB application, many of which were reported by our customers. Though this fix falls outside our usual release timeline, the isolated nature of our ELB application allows us more flexibility in our updates.

Wanted: Your Feedback

We’re building new RightScale features using this UI framework, and we’ll update our existing UIs over time to take advantage of it. We would love to hear which improvements you would like to see in the RightScale dashboard. You can share your feedback with us in several ways:

  • Use the Feedback button that appears in the upper right of the new UIs; it sends your feedback directly to the product and user experience (UX) teams so that we can quickly act on it.
  • Comment in our Feedback Forum, whose content our product team regularly monitors and uses to plan development sprints.
  • Participate in a usability study. The UX team conducts periodic usability tests of new features; if you are interested in spending 30 to 45 minutes in return for a gift card and a chance to influence the future of the RightScale cloud management platform, you can sign up here.
  • Join us at the RightScale Compute conference, where you can talk with members of the RightScale UX team in person.