A post on another blog got us thinking about our days as part of the netViz team and how we still get lots of 3D requests for netTerrain (which does not support 3D for specific reasons we will go over here). While netViz supported 3D, we found it problematic for most applications. Sure, those canned 3D demos look good at the trade show – but consider this: if they’re running slowly at the demo level, you can only imagine how they’ll run in the real world. That being said, do 3D views have real value for the data center? As we’ve worked on both sides of the coin, here’s our answer: probably not, unless you need computational fluid dynamics (CFD).
For the sake of our argument, let’s take a break from data centers and talk about boats (as it’s cold here this winter and we’d sure like to be on a boat right now). Say you have a single goal: you want to win a boat race. To do so, you’ll need to choose the right boat. You have as many options as there are boats on the market: you can build a makeshift raft, you could buy a single-person kayak….or spring for a top-of-the-line luxury superyacht. It all depends on your goal and your budget.
How do you decide which boat will best help you achieve your goal of winning the race? You need to find out what the boat is really good at. For example, while a superyacht might be the boat with the most features – such as four decks and a kitchen – lighter vessels can pick up speed faster: a small speed boat is probably the one to help you win the race. Like boats, there are a variety of data center tools out there that come with different features and some of these features won’t serve your goals.
What is your goal in adding data visualization to your data center? It’s probably this: you need to know more about your data center: available space, power, cooling and what is connected to what. Is 3D the best way to get this information? Not really. Why not? Well, 3D is kind of like luxury features on a superyacht. If you want a boat with multiple decks, you’ll need a big enough boat – and that will slow down deployment …same goes for 3D. 3D almost always requires thick clients that slow down deployment and, more importantly, render your diagrams much slower in production. Thick clients make the deployment of your software complicated – and that’s not ideal in the real world.
Beyond making things more complicated, 3D is – we’ll go out on a limb here – overrated. From our experience in the netViz days, we saw firsthand that, while 3D gives that ‘wow factor’ in a demo, in the real world it just ends up turned off. The truth is: modeling in 3D adds complexity without much bang for your buck. With 3D, you end up troubleshooting not faster, but slower, while your asset management and cabling aren’t improved.
So, do you need 3D views? It depends on your goal. If your goal is reducing downtime and improving efficiency, 3D doesn’t make sense. For a CFD tool, 3D is mandatory. We don’t offer 3D for netTerrain because we are focused on offering software that’s easy to deploy and fast – and, we don’t offer CFD (although an integration with a leading provider is coming soon!). Final thoughts: DCIM demos can be a whirl of features that look good enough in the demo, but in real life, they can cause added headaches instead of solving your real pain points. Features are nice, but if they don’t directly address your pain points, they can end up costing you money, time and efficiency.