Why a 3D datacentre sounds virtually unpleasant

Spending time hanging out in Second Life has convinced me of one thing: very few real-world processes benefit from being replicated by a bunch of avatars -- and that goes doubly for storage.

Spending time hanging out in Second Life has convinced me of one thing: very few real-world processes benefit from being replicated by a bunch of avatars.

I'd certainly consider storage and datacentre management to be a prime inclusion on a list of "processes we don't need to see in 3D", but the boffins at IBM Labs have a different point of view.

IBM recently announced that it had developed what amounts to a 3D interface for managing multiple datacentres.

"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 press release gushed (with annoying US spelling).

What's not made clear in this sea of verbiage is just how this 3D approach is any better than existing network management tools.

Corporate datacentres are of necessity complex, but seeing them modelled in a virtual environment doesn't in itself necessarily make them more comprehensible.

"3-D data centers are better able to consolidate the footprint of large numbers of machines only being used at, for instance, 10 percent 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," the announcement continues, with yet more of that spelling.

Again, though, there's no explanation of why being 3D is any better than a conventional monitoring tool. Sure, it'll look cooler, but are aesthetics really the main issue here?

The case for 3D is put by IBM research technical architect Michael Osias like this: "Viewing information about your datacentre in 2-D text -- even in real time -- only tells a datacentre manager part of the story, because our brains are wired for sight and sound."

Last time I checked, sight worked pretty well for reading 2D screens, and was less likely to make you seasick in the process.

Predictably, one of the other selling points for this concept is that it's more environmentally friendly. Presumably IBM isn't worried by the notion that Second Life (still the most prominent virtual world) is a bit of a carbon hog -- a concept that Linden Lab is keen to dispel but which has persisted nonetheless.

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