The data center tour is an integral part of the sales process for colocation and hosting space. But in a difficult economy and tight budgets, traveling around the country to scout data centers isn't as simple.
So the developers of Phoenix NAP decided to bring the data center to the client. The company has created a data center virtual tour that allows visitors to "walk through" a full 3D visualization of the layout for the data center, which is scheduled to open this spring with a first phase of 45,000 square feet and will eventually include 160,000 square feet of data center space.
Phoenix NAP isn't the first data center provider to use 3D virtual tours as a presentation tool. IBM used the virtual world Second Life to simulate elements of a server room for its Project Big Green launch in 2007, and later offered a Virtual Network Operations Center that used Second Life to let customers manage servers through the 3D interface.
But Phoenix NAP Interactive has taken a more comprehensive approach to the virtual data center tour, working with GSD Software to model its entire data center building within the virtual environment. That includes 3D representations of fiber trenches, mechanical and electrical distribution equipment, security systems, and room layouts.
“One of the things we wanted to do was really showcase our designs and functional layout to any potential clients or interested individuals, while being mindful of travel costs," said Jordan Jacobs, director of operations for Phoenix NAP. "Not everyone can jump on a plane to Arizona for an initial tour, and with Phoenix NAP Interactive, they don’t have to.”
The virtual approach also allows data center operators the ability to offer a vision of a finished data center while a facility is in the construction phase. Phoenix NAP is in the late stages of its construction process (which it has documented on its Data Center Builder blog), and expects to be operational by March.
The application, which requires a 3D plugin, can be used in a guided tour format, with in-world avatars for both prospects and Phoenix NAP staff, or users can explore the space on their own. Some experience with virtual worlds or online gaming will come in handy in navigating the 3D environment. The good news: walking into walls is much less painful with your avatar than on a real tour.
Here's a video providing an overview: