The history of visual representation in engineering and navigation from early cartography to sophisticated blueprints, and simple diagrams to elaborate mind maps attests to the communicative value of integrating quantitative and qualitative information in an accessible, visual format. One of the questions asked of a DCIM solution is whether or not 3D representation brings any added value.

Perhaps a more nuanced (and slightly philosophical) way to pose the question is as follows: Is software meant to reduce reality or represent its most useful elements in a clear and reliable manner? DCIM operations are, generally speaking, mission critical, and operators cannot rely on simplistic representations and jump from one tool to another to collect scattered, de-contextualized information and still expect to take quick and effective action.

In DCIM, 3D representation at its most basic level provides users a familiar way of seeing. In addition, 3D renderings allow a seamless navigation between various areas of a data center through a plurality of vantage points most of which are inaccessible to conventional video cameras. Furthermore, 3D view settings are flexible by design. They allow customized positioning, ‘bookmarking’ favorite views, and exporting screenshots that include pertinent asset information. More importantly, a model allows a better grasp of relationships. It is one thing to know that a number of alarms have just triggered, it is quite another to see the event in context, detect patterns, apply filters (such as a heat map), run a visual report, and identify correlations and causal relationships.

It is especially the possibility of augmenting 3D models with visual reports that makes virtual reality compelling: this overlapping of real-time data, asset status, contextual information, and location enables quick access to a holistic view of data centers. With a model in sight, data center operators may better appreciate changes at row, room, and site levels and make informed decisions with regards to capacity planning, while minimizing ‘blind spots’ caused by the unavailability of key data. It is no coincidence that we use the word ‘perspective’ to refer to physical and conceptual dimensions (we say, ‘to draw in perspective’ and ‘to put an idea into perspective’).

To summarize, 3D view helps DCIM operators monitor, analyze, communicate, and make decisions more efficiently. Currently, DCIM software allows users to study their data centers at any point in the future, not just now. Looking forward, these forecasting capabilities will become more advanced and especially insightful when overlaid onto the 3D model. But there are other possibilities on the horizon. Software models may integrate room details along with positions of on-sight technicians using location trackers and enable instant communication and collaboration between various operators; or send a drone to scan the RFID of a particular asset with a mouse click; or connect with asset placement machines and move physical objects while the operator receives live information on their screen display.

There’s a lot more to 3D than meets the eye.

Author: Oubai Elkerdi