Wachovia building 'MapQuest for the data center'

Wachovia's green IT focus leads to 3-D data center mapping project.

Wachovia is working on a project of staggering scope: A 3-D map of the firm's data-center operations.

The effort has been under way for about eight months, said Jacob Hall, a Wachovia vice president and head of the company's platform design and data center, technology products group.

To generate the 3-D models, the financial services company is using geospatial data and also partnering with a pair of vendors, Tideway Systems and Intepoint, as well as the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, which has a visualization center.

Tideway makes Foundation, a tool for mapping dependencies among applications and hardware, and this week released the 7.0 version of the product. Intepoint's focus is on visualization and event simulation for IT systems.

Right now, Wachovia is rendering 3-D models down to the level of individual servers in buildings, Hall said. Given enough data, the system could eventually generate even more detailed models, according to Hall.

Wachovia hopes the project will provide better visualization of IT assets, their power consumption and other details; the ability to identify "critical nodes" in the network; and the means to predict the business impact of various scenarios, such as a power outage in a city.

The company also hopes the 3-D maps will help them run a greener IT department. "This gives us the facts to go out and rearchitect our systems," Hall said.

However, Wachovia is not collecting data in real time. That is largely unnecessary, Hall said. "It would create too much traffic, and people would just try to shut it off. I think static snapshots are good enough." One future possibility could be to provide real-time data on demand, he said.

Hall said there are plans to make the tool Web-based, allowing for integrations with other data types, such as IT trouble ticket information.

Drue Reeves, vice president and director of data center strategies with Burton Group, said the value of modeling data centers in 3-D form probably depends on an organization's size. "I think it's for the larger enterprises. For the guys who have NOCs [network operations centers], it'd be very useful. But I do wonder if it would be a little pricey for the average SMB," he said.

Ultimately, Reeves noted, Wachovia's effort involves system visualization, not the actual instrumentation of IT devices: "It's more for the person than the machine." But IT departments should consider any means that could help them run their operations more efficiently, he stressed.

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