I was spending some time (or wasting….you decide) on Reddit last week when I came across this article on how NASA uses IT visualization to tell visual stories from technical details. While we’re not a BI tool, what NASA is doing — and why they’re doing it — is at the very heart of the question, “Why use DCIM and/or automated network mapping to visualize your networks and data centers?”
As NASA Earth Observatory data visualization and cartography lead Joshua Stevens says, “The first stories we ever told were in cave paintings, which existed long before written language. What I think is happening now is that we can make more sophisticated cave paintings and share them with a much broader audience who aren’t in our particular caves. People around the world can get data they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The internet has been democratized in a way where others can take place in visualization where it isn’t just a one way street; Instead, it’s sort of a conversation surrounding data. It has opened up so many possibilities.”
The need to visualize data isn’t anything new. We humans have always been very visual and we’ve always needed a way to tell stories and visually access information. Early hieroglyphics told simple stories or gave simple directions. Today, we have complex information — but we still need a way to visualize it and understand it.
What is NASA Doing?
NASA has a fleet of satellites out there collecting data sets so massive we can’t even begin to fathom the sheer size — let alone visualize what all the data means. The data is being collected so that NASA scientists can identify trends and better understand how the world works.
Communicating what the scientists are finding isn’t an easy task. Just sharing general takeaways based on datasets, as you may well know, won’t get much accomplished. The solution NASA created is to bridge the divide between the numbers and comprehension through visualizations created from the datasets.
They use data visualization to bring data to life with detailed images and maps created from the data they’re collecting.
What’s the Purpose?
Visualization ensures the data doesn’t just exist in a vacuum. It’s one thing to say the data indicates a bad storm is coming. It’s another thing entirely to give someone a map and show them, with detailed images, exactly how the storm is expected to progress. Thanks to the power of data visualization, NASA is able to take the information out of the clouds and bring it down to earth (pun intended).
Take, for instance, a recent NASA visual story on Hurricane Harvey’s arrival in Texas. The team created a visual story that was able to warn Texas residents of the potency of the impending storm. THis information helps emergency services, media, city planners, and residents to both comprehend and react to important information.
…DCIM Helps Warn About Impending Storms
Whether it’s a server health check, capacity planning, power monitoring, or fully decommissioning equipment – DCIM software visualizes complex datasets and gives managers and engineers actionable insights that can ward off serious issues.
You can’t manage what you don’t know, and unless you have a way of visualizing the complex information in your networks and data centers, you can’t proactively respond to problems that may be coming down the line.
The data is all there: if you want to act on it, you just need a way of reaching it, pulling it, and using it.
Excel and databases simply aren’t enough for network management and data visualization. Solutions such as DCIM can take all this complex information and communicate messages as simple, and actionable, as the ones once told through ancient cave etchings.