DCIM Innovation: 3D Visualization. Just Eye Candy? No!

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to update myself on the latest DCIM offering from my southwestern friends, a short-list supplier of data center management software. Their innovative efforts in the (now bigger) DCIM space are beginning to show real fruit and inspired me to discuss 3D in the context of DCIM.

It is now clear that they have taken a very mature look at Data Center asset management and created a data store architecture that allows the 3D space of the data center to be populated and rendered. Why would anyone need 3D to manage the data center? It’s really much more than pretty pictures. Picture your data center as MORE than just floorplans and pretty rack views. Essentially the Data Center is really all about X/Y/Z coordinates and object attributes for everything.

Data Center assets exist in a 3D world

Everything described in physical relation to everything else is relatively easy when the data store has a common point of physical reference or coordinate. (A cable with three bends for instance is really a collection of 5 coordinates including the ends and the bends. Each bend has a coordinate, as do the endpoints. The cable object also has attributes, like color and type, etc). So, if the data model is mature enough, it will allow for these data points to be stored in a fashion relative to the 3D space of the data center. And anything that can be stored in an organized fashion can be displayed in a litany of ways previously unimagineable.

Anyone that has spoken to me  over the last 10 years knows that I believe that an essential characteristic of DCIM over the long-term is a complete decoupling of the data gathering process from the information presentation, display and analysis. This decoupling happens at the data store itself. From my perspective, the most successful DCIM vendors will likely converge on having many software (manual and automatic) processes that gather information like rack locations, temperature values, cable routing, etc.  These points of data will be fully described and their coordinates located in this X/Y/X space. Separately, the user can navigate the user interface to visualize any aspect(s) of that data. Here’s the magic: The visual rendering is just a function of what the data contains…. however it got there. And if done well, various aspects can be shown individually or in combination.

Imagine my delight when I saw this DCIM solution being able to turn ‘layers’ on and off, showing temperature points in space, or cabling runs, racks with or without equipment, etc. All in 3D, since this 3D space remains the same, and the users’ s viewport and amount of data is the only thing that changes.

3D Visualization is much more than Eye-Candy. I believe the inclusion of 3D in a vendor’s offering is a hint about the organization of their data model and how easily it might lend itself to future needs. The understanding about a data center existing in a 3D coordinate world, with all included assets having location and attributes is a good thing. 3D is clearly one great architectural approach that will benefit customers over the long term in ways that are not being dreamed of today.

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Mark Harris Fremont, CA
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