Wednesday May 27, 2009

Deploying Sun's Latest "Advanced Download Widget"

I first wrote about our forays into "1-click" downloading a while ago (could it really be two years already?), and as that post noted, there were significant limitations in our first 1-click widget. We had to take on some higher priority projects that delayed our ability to address the limitations for a while, but as you'll see, we're now solidly back on track. 

While I don't work full-time on downloads any more, I am still the Product Manager of the Sun Download Manager (SDM) and of course remain very well-connected with the Download Team. As such, I was asked by Alfred Chen, the current Download Team Lead, if we could try out the latest version of the "advanced download widget" (ADW) on the SDM download page. SDM remains one of our most popular downloads so would get plenty of traffic for "real world" experience and also met the criteria for the new ADW. I was glad to say "Yes," and we went live with it several weeks ago. 

One of the main limitations of the original 1-click release was that it worked for one file and one file only. The new ADW now accommodates multiple platform and language options so is much more versatile.  It even "auto-detects" your platform and language and will pre-select the appropriate option when available. Once platform (and if available, language) are selected, it automatically pushes the correct binary for 1-click downloading. Here's a screen shot of the new widget:

Sun Download Manager Advanced Download Widget

You can try it out for yourself by downloading SDM.

There's more work to do, however -- ADW still does not support optional or required registration, so that's the next set of enhancements. They are underway and if all goes well will be released this summer. I have previously touted the virtues of optional registration, and there are several places on Sun now where we're using this with very good results. For example, on the Glassfish Download Page, there is an optional registration "pop-in" widget that comes up when you click the Download button. This illustrates a new twist on "optional download registration," as it includes the added incentive of receiving an informative white paper for registering. Being optional, you can just close this out and the download will start automatically (there's that 1-click functionality again!), but many customers are taking advantage of the white paper offer. So they get a white paper and the Glassfish download, and we get valuable customer information. 

Glassfish optional reg component

While this new model is working great, the Glassfish implementation is frankly a "one-off". What the next version of ADW will provide is a standard way of doing this across Sun sites with minimal effort. I'm really looking forward to this new functionality and think it'll be a great win for both Sun and our customers.  It continues the march towards our goal of seamlessly integrating the download experience directly into the web pages you're on, rather than forcing customers to "move" between the web site and the "download system." 

Friday Feb 09, 2007

Update on Sun Download Manager 2.0 -- Delivering Results


It's been two months since the release of SDM 2.0, so we took a look at some key statistics to see how it's going. We're very pleased with results so far.

One of the key goals of the project was to improve download completion rates. We know using SDM helps, but not enough customers were using earlier versions because they had to be installed in a separate transaction. By integrating SDM directly into the Sun Download Center (SDLC) download page, we figured more people would use it and completion rates would improve. (Better completion rates are great for our customers and benefit Sun as well.) Happily, we're seeing immediate improvements, as illustrated in this chart comparing completion rates in November, 2006 (before SDM 2) and in December, 2006 (after the release).

Completion rate comparison

I also ran some preliminary numbers for January and found that one of our largest (and most critical) downloads, the 5 segments that make up the Solaris 10 OS DVD images, are running at a greater than 80% completion rate. That's pretty remarkable when you consider it's over 3 gigabytes of content. (When we started obsessing on Solaris completion rates years ago, the files were much smaller yet running at completion rates around 20% -- so you can see why I'm excited by the progress.)

As to increasing adoption of SDM, average download volume for earlier versions was 20-30,000 downloads/month. Since release of SDM 2, we've had 1/2 million downloads!

Another key indicator is customer support issues. Honestly, it was a little scary for us releasing this brand new use of Java Web Start (JaWS) technology -- integrating a JaWS application directly with the download links on SDLC in a highly visible and trafficked environment. But we've only received about 30 support incidents from our customers, which is a great ratio considering the number of downloads and installations. (Some of the support inquiries received were covered in our SDM troubleshooting guide already, but we understand not everyone "reads the manual.") 

Finally, a quick Google search didn't find too much chatter about SDM, typically a good thing I guess. "Milek's Blog" had some nice things to say as well as some suggestions for new features -- much appreciated. On the negative side, I found little as well, though there are rare cases where SDM using Java Web Start may not work properly. This is often a case of multiple older Java Runtime Environments on the same system, possibly combined with issues introduced by corporate firewalls and proxies. As we recommend, if possible, uninstall older Java versions and install the latest/greatest. Also, the stand-alone version of SDM is still available and offers a good option when proxy or firewall issues may keep the JaWS version from starting up properly. All in all, considering the volume, these issues are very rare.

So that's a quick summary of results so far. SDM 2.0 is off to a great start and is meeting and exceeding the goals we set for the project. (Now I better get back to work on our current major project -- an all new download system that will replace today's SDLC application. We sincerely hope this project goes at least as well as SDM 2.0!)


Friday Dec 08, 2006

Sun Download Manager 2.0 Goes Live!



SDM 2.0 puts our customers in charge of their download experience with the click of a button.

I am really pleased to announce the release yesterday (December 7, 2006) of Sun Download Manager 2.0 (SDM) in conjunction with major enhancements to the Sun Download Center (SDLC). Together they mark a milestone in the Sun download experience. For the first time, customers can easily download, install, and run SDM without ever leaving the download page for the products they desire. This is accomplished by integrating SDM directly into the SDLC, using Sun's Java Web Start (JaWS) technology. Users simply check the boxes next to the files they want, click the bright orange button to download with SDM (you can't miss it!), and JaWS takes over. It automatically downloads SDM, installs it, and starts it up with the selected files already loaded into SDM and ready to download.

Here's a picture of the enhanced SDLC download page:

SDLC download page


SDM offers many features and benefits. A few highlights include:
  • Pause and resume downloads, plus recover from dropped connections without having to start over.
  • Built-in, patent-pending verification technology ensures the integrity of downloaded files.
  • Saves time and bandwidth for Sun and our customers; conserving bandwidth saves money for all.
  • Greatly increases the download success rate. Greater customer success means higher customer satisfaction, more adoption of Sun's software, and all the corresponding benefits that entails.

Additionally, SDM 2 features a complete redesign, sporting a clean new look and feel that's more in sync with the rest of sun.com. There's even a small, unobtrusive banner ad window, the first application (i.e. not a web page) to leverage Sun's ad server to deliver dynamic, timely promotions and offers to customers' desktops. Of course SDM remains a completely free product with no spyware or malware whatsoever.

Here's the new UI:

Sun Download Manager user interface

It would be great if you would give it a try and let us know what you think by leaving me your comments. Frankly, we're pushing into new territory with this creative use of JaWS, and just our testing alone on a zillion different browser/platform/Java version combinations was an amazing challenge. That's no replacement for the "real world," however, which is why it's so important we get your feedback. While SDM 2 remains available as a "stand alone" application (with installer), the biggest change is the way we've integrated it dynamically into SDLC. The way to test that is to simply pick your product on the SDLC, select the files you want to download, and push the big orange button!

Please note SDM is a 100% Java application and runs on virtually any modern operating system with a Java Runtime Environment v1.4.2 or higher (though the latest version really does work best). If you are running a lower version of JRE, your SDLC web page will look like the "old" version, and you will not be offered the integrated SDM.

This release was a true cross-functional effort -- many thanks to the teams that made it happen: CWP Product Marketing, Download Engineering, Web Operations, and SDLC IT. 

About

I helped design, build, and manage download systems at Sun for many years. Recently I've focused on web eMarketing systems. Occasionally, I write about other interests, such as holography and jazz guitar. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/garyzel

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