Three 3D Data Center Visualization Myths, Debunked
July 14, 2016

Mention 3D visualizations to a data center professional, and chances are that the response will be less than enthusiastic. Considered everything from an insignificant "nice-to-have" to an unhelpful, overrated, resource hog, 3D appears to be more trouble than it is worth. With this perception, is it any wonder why so many data center management software applications either eschew 3D in favor of its 2D counterpart or halfheartedly implement 3D in an attempt to attract prospects and keep pace with the competition?
Implementing 3D data center visualizations may have seemed counterintuitive to Sunbird's mission to radically simplify data center management with elegant software. That's why, rather than taking the view of 3D as visually enticing but ultimately irrelevant gimmick, we strove to create a valuable 3D experience in our DCIM Operations software.
So, how do you create 3D functionality that is both beautiful and useful? Based on our experience, here are three common misconceptions that we needed to debunk to create 3D data center visualizations that add value for data center managers and operators:
1. 3D Does Not Address Real Customer Use Cases.
"What enhanced visualizations would make your life easier?"
When we asked our customers this question, we weren't looking necessarily to limit ourselves to 3D. Instead, we wanted to address the myth that 3D and other enhanced visualizations, while impressive in demos at trade shows, do not actually help customers in the real world do their jobs more effectively.
The common theme across customer responses was a need to be able to look at their data centers as if they were really there—without actually being there.
With this purpose in mind, we developed our Isolate feature. While the Home view of our 3D visualizations provides a bird's-eye perspective of the entire data center floor (to help you ensure that the layout in the data center model accurately represents the real world), Isolate mode enables you to drill down to the details in a 3D view of the cabinets and their contents. When you first toggle Isolate mode and select the cabinets that you want to see in detail, the camera automatically "flies" to the front of the cabinets, saving clicks while still showing you how you arrived at the cabinets. 
Once Isolated, you can see the devices within each cabinet as well as the readings from power and environmental sensors on each cabinet. If you were onsite in a data center, you might only be able to see the cabinets directly in front of you. However, 3D floor map visualizations give you the ability to zoom out, increasing your field of view so you can see all of the cabinets in a row and their associated environmental sensor and power data all on a single screen.   
2. 3D Enhancements Are Aesthetic, Not Informational.
A frequently heard argument against 3D visualizations hinges on the notion that 3D, when used in most data center management software, is applied indiscriminately. Of course, making everything 3D without reason is a bad idea—especially when 2D can be "good enough" or even preferable.
We don't disagree that 3D should be used when appropriate. After all, if 3D isn't appropriate for a specific implementation, and in fact does not satisfy customer use cases or improve the user experience, why would you use it?
To address this concern, we focused on implementing 3D where it would enhance, not detract, in an elegant, useful way. The concept came to life in our 3D floor map visualizations, where certain reports incorporate real-time power readings and temperature sensor data in ways that are suitable to 3D.
For example, a Max Temperature per Cabinet Front report in 2D will display a floor map color coded for only the highest temperature reading at the front of each cabinet. The same report in 3D displays not only that same information, but when Isolated mode is enabled, also shows the color-coded temperature readings for the top, middle, and bottom temperature sensors. Users can even orbit the floor map to view the temperature readings on the cabinet rears, without additional clicks.  
And if you still prefer 2D, you can toggle between 2D and 3D at the click of a button to get the best of both worlds.
Bonus: Using 3D appropriately can also address the misconception that 3D makes the information in data center management software difficult to use and understand. Ultimately, though, that's only half the battle. It's equally important to consider how intuitive and easy it is to navigate and access this information when 3D is implemented. 
3. 3D Requires Too Many Resources for Too Little Return.
One of the most common myths about 3D data center visualizations is that they require significant amounts of processing power. Requiring these resources for little return is one of the reasons many data center professionals consider 3D to not be worth their time or investment. 
However, 3D floor map visualizations can be high performing when they rely on processing on the client side, not on the server. Not taxing the server frees up resources for other processes, and the performance is limited only by the processing power of your machine.
What if you want to improve the performance of your 3D data center visualizations despite the limitations of your hardware? We needed to provide a way through the web interface to address this concern simply and easily.
Enter the Contents Selector. The Contents Selector in our DCIM Operations software allows you to choose whether to automatically display or hide the contents of cabinets in the 3D floor map visualizations at the click of a button. Choosing to hide the contents of the cabinets improves the performance, so even if the you are managing large data centers or working on a machine with limited processing power, you can still take advantage of the benefits of 3D visualizations.
Many DCIM vendors today dismiss 3D as pointless, resource intensive, and overly complicated. But when focused on real-world user experiences with an eye toward high performance, 3D can enhance data center visualizations, presenting data center managers with valuable information that enables more effective data center operations and monitoring.
Want to try out Sunbird DCIM's 3D data center visualizations for yourself? Test drive our DCIM software today to experience 3D that simplifies data center management.

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