Made in IBM Labs: IBM 3-D Data Centers Show Virtual Worlds Fit for Business

Story by Farid - Friday 22nd February 2008, 08:08:00 AM

ARMONK, NY - 21 Feb 2008: IBM ( NYSE: IBM) today announced new technologies that recreate data centers in a secure virtual world -- bringing real-time data from different facilities into a 3-D environment to visualize hot spots, data flow, server utilization and more to better monitor and manage the entire IT platform.

As companies of all sizes become more global in nature and tap into skills across the world, this mounting virtual workforce needs new tools to be effective. The 3-D Data Center allows experts to manage data center resources regardless of where they are or when these resources need attention, giving both employees and corporations enhanced productivity and freedom. The globally-integrated enterprise can deliver enormous economic benefits to both developed and developing nations, and new technology like this one can help companies seamlessly operate in such a distributed model.

Implenia, a Swiss construction, building services and real estate company, used the IBM virtual data center solutions to extend its existing virtual operations center which was previously used mainly for the facilities management processes. Adding the data from datacenter equipment allowed Implenia a finer control of the HVAC and security system. The virtual data center is a tailored 3-D replica of servers, racks, networking, power and cooling equipment that allows data center managers to experience real-time enhanced awareness of their dispersed resources.

3-D data centers are better able to consolidate the footprint of large numbers of machines only being used at, for instance, 10% capacity, to get rid of extraneous machines, and to monitor power and cooling, distribute workload between data centers, and even move processing to cooler sites when weather conditions are unfavorable.

"Viewing information about your data center in 2-D text -- even in real time -- only tells a data center manager part of the story, because our brains are wired for sight and sound," said IBM Researcher Michael Osias, who architected the 3-D data center service. "By actually seeing the operations of your data center in 3-D, even down to flames showing hotspots and visualizations of the utilization of servers allows for a clearer understanding of the enterprise resources, better informed decision-making and a higher level of interaction and collaboration."

A consolidated view gives operators insight into real physical issues such as how heat and energy flow through the data center. It also provides an intuitive method for understanding the company's entire computing architecture.

Currently, Implenia manages eight pilot sites including a data center that is managed by different tools and technologies. This challenged Implenia's management capability and affected its ability to control its customer properties and overall efficiency.

"Until working with IBM we only knew the state of our data center from the information we got through the building automation system and our virtual worlds communications interface. We didn't know the state of the server and information that was readily available to us until it was made more accessible via the 3-D visualizations that IBM built for us. We think that by combining this information with the information we had from the building automation side we can, from a building management standpoint, control the data much better and take action to be more efficient," said Oliver Goh, Implenia IT Specialist.

The key element in the work for Implenia is linking IBM's virtual world integration middleware, Holographic Enterprise Interface (HEI), that links real-world data center operations in cyberspace to their Building automation interface (VWCI). HEI has a modular and flexible design that allows clients to customize the desired interactions between real and virtual worlds. Each physical data center linked through this technology has an HEI instance that will transmit messages over the private network using Internet standard protocols to the 3-D virtual world server.

The virtual world platforms that render the 3-D environment is based on the OpenSim Application Platform for 3D Virtual Worlds (

Most enterprises have data centers in different buildings, cities and possibly even countries. This is because data center designs have often been dictated by a company's need to scale quickly to meet demand from company growth and the transfer of more business processes to IT. But the job of efficiently managing data centers in Beijing and Buenos Aires from an office in Madrid is not always an easy one.

Companies are increasingly dealing with this problem by relying on software that allows them to manage their far-flung data centers as if they were a single, centralized computing pool.

Since the IBM 3-D data center is a multi-user virtual world, complete with in-world instant messaging, multiple users can have a shared 3-D experience about aspects of the data center, either in simulation or live mode, and carry on active discussions in-world. This shared experience allows technical, business, and even partner personnel, to collaborate on elements of the enterprise data center.

This type of collaboration provides much faster cycle times for analysis and decision making, by viewing operations in near real time, instead of exchanging messages and two-dimensional drawings via email.

With the IBM 3-D data center, customers can not only monitor and manage live systems, but they can perform simulations and 'what if' scenarios about their enterprise.

Since the 3-D assets are data driven, and there is no knowledge of the source of the data (only the structure of the message and its semantic meaning), the data center can be driven with mock up or pre-recorded data.

The modeling and simulation capability can also be used for exercises in space, power, and cooling planning, training, and disaster recovery scenarios. Users can move assets, interact with them, and drive them with real or simulated data.

The 3-D data center is customizable according to the client's servers, applications and monitoring systems. Models of non-IBM equipment are also available.

This is a true illustration of the future of work and how business will be conducted in the 21st century workplace. IBM is in the best position to help clients understand the challenges and opportunities that affect a globally-integrated enterprise. Global integration has become embedded in IBM's workforce, strategy, leadership and operations -- affecting how the company collaborates across time zones and cultures and locates its operations, functions and leadership anywhere in the world based on the right skills and business environment.

About IBM
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About Implenia
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Real-Time Management of Global Data Centers Made Possible Through Secure 3-D Intranets Can Reduce Cost, Save Time and Help Reduce Carbon Footprint


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