At the moment, zones is a very helpful feature, but limited in flexibility.
It appears to follow a model of associating all devices, and only those devices, that are able to communicate through auto-discovery, by virtue of connecting to the same subnet.
This model is common, but limiting, due to the diversity of network topologies, particularly the potential incongruence between logical usage of devices and their physical attachment to the network. This problem escalates as networks evolve toward a IOT model, in which the network serves primarily for reliable transport between large numbers of small nodes, with the logical relationship among the nodes left as a consideration to be resolved by the application.
As follows are some further ideas for feature development for zones:
- Blacklisting, on a device, specific nodes on the same subnet from association through the same zone.
- Importing devices, by supplied address, from other subnets, for participation in the same zone.
- Importing devices as above, but also as to include all other devices with which the imported device already shares a zone.
- Resolving membership to a zone by a configurable zone identifier per device.
Giving users control over how their devices relate to each other, without dependence on network structure, would be valuable for them to pursue the usage they prefer.
The feature may be further extended by allowing synchronization of configuration among devices in a common zone, particularly with respect to media sources (e.g. not only sharing the library data through a NAS, but sharing the configuration of the NAS shares among clients).