Manage a Data Center Virtually in 3-D

Imagine being able to manage data center power and server utilization remotely through an avatar.

Imagine being able to control a company's data center through an avatar, a digital projection of a person.

IBM has made this possible. Fresh from IBM's research lab in Hawthorne, N.Y., the 3-D Data Center application allows IT experts to use virtual reality technology to manage data center resources from remote locations all over the world without leaving their offices.

The 3-D Data Center is a three-dimensional replica of servers, racks, networking, power and cooling equipment. The application lets IT managers' avatars rove server rooms to check various server gear.

Users can open and close rack-mounted server doors with a couple of mouse clicks. 3-D widgets slide out like drawers in a server to show the host name, CPU and memory utilization, said IBM Researcher Michael Osias, architect of the 3-D data center service.

Click here for 3-D Data Center images.

To enable users to visualize server hot spots, a thermal widget is represented as a flame to indicate overheating areas that must be cooled down, Osias said.

Alerts are streamed from systems management software, such as IBM's Tivoli or Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, to the 3-D Data Center, which renders them as klaxon alarms or spinning lights. Users can check the systems individually or click for the total data center status.

IT staffers can put the kibosh on machines that aren't needed, distribute workload between data centers and move processing to cooler sites, all without having to be physically present.

For example, the software lets users send a message from the virtual world about the physical device to IBM's Director software to get a server shut down.

In addition to managing live systems, IT staffers can conduct simulations of space, power and cooling planning, and disaster recovery scenarios. Users can move data center assets, interact with them and infuse them with real or simulated data.