Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Opensim and datacenter management

Somewhere I followed a link to something cool called opensim. It lets you build a 3d world and populate it with other people or objects. In my usual geeky way I tried to imagine how I could use this in my day to day job running IT infrastructure.

I think this is probably more cool than useful, but imagine if you could see in 3d what your data center looked like. All of the servers in the right spot in the racks. You could look at the lights on the switches and see if they were connected to something. You could see the servers and power them off if you wanted to. You could walk to the back of the cabinet and see where they were plugged in and that the circuits weren't using too much power.

How cool would that be, especially for a remote data center? Pretty cool right?

Even better though would be if you could do the opposite. See we can do a lot of this now, if we kept our documentation up to date, and we do a really good job of that. We can see the switch ports, check our documentation to see what plug the power supply is plugged into and even use SNMP to verify the amount of amps being used on the circuit.

The problem is most people don't keep there "cross patch information" files accurately. Most people don't record where they connect power cords, and most people don't track where the servers are racked in the cabinet. What we really want is to be able to do the opposite. We want to be able to walk through the data center and record and update our documents with how things really are connected. Now for power cables this is probably not too hard. Recording the "U location" in the cabinets is probably possible too.

Recording the Ethernet or fiber cables is probably impossible using video though. There are too many in the bundle to be able to tell which one is plugged into what, plus sometimes the cables run from the front to the back of the cabinet and we would lose track of the cable on the camera.

Luckily though our Enterasys switches use something called "Node alias" which records MAC addresses heard on a port, DNS information or DHCP information. While the video recording is not yet possible, figuring out what LAN cable goes where is available today. I think this is an Enterasys only feature, though I'd love to hear if other switch vendors can do the same thing.


  1. ReactionGrid (one of the OpenSim hosting companies) did a 3D visualization of their servers.

    I think more companies are using OpenSim for planning purposes, though, at least right now.

    For example, you can quickly use in-world building tools to lay out your data center, and have your colleagues -- wherever in the world they are -- be there with you, helping you build, or pointing out safety or wiring mistakes, etc...

    Similarly, you can use it to train people on how to set up a data center.

    There are companies doing 3D data visualization with OpenSim, but loading up the environment is a bit of a hassle -- easier to set up an online dashboard.

    -- Maria Korolov
    Editor, Hypergrid Business

  2. It seems like a great tool. I definitely want to play around with it a bit and see how hard it is to use. I'll have to check out the ReactionGrid visualization too.

    Thanks for sharing.