XML, a Flexible, Extensible Tool for Data Center Layout Visualization

By CIOReview | Wednesday, April 8, 2015

FREMONT, CA: Data centers in today’s cloud-first world are growing in size and complexity and so do the management of these data centers. Data center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is a key criteria to ensure smooth functioning and to generate value. DCIM helps administrators with a clear picture of the data center layout – showing the cold-, rack-, and hot-aisles – and the resources within the setup. It’s critical that administrators have a bird’s eye view of the setup where everything can be tracked easily.

Key aspects of the visualization of a data center layout include exact specification of a room’s coordinates and dimensions. Software programs that are based upon text file, which can be easily edited by hand or program, are more flexible and extensible. ‘Extended Markup Language (XML) may be the best choice for describing the model for a data center layout,’ say Parikshit Bhaduri and Niloy Ghosh, GreenField Software, as they discuss the effectiveness of using XML in data center layout modeling in the ‘Industry Pespectives for Data Center Knowledge.’

XML describes data; it is also a tool to carry information and it is independent of software and hardware. As a text file with syntax, XML is being widely used as the standard in the description of data and metadata.  XML can be implemented to fully represent all the assets in a data center.

XML works with XSLT – acronym for Extensible Stylesheet Language that essentially transforms XML into other forms – to automatically generate Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) from XML content. Data center layout can be viewed through a browser by the help of SVG which is generated by the transformation of XML definitions of racks, hot aisles, and cold aisles. XSLT – which is expressed in XML syntax – plays key role in bringing out this transformation.

A source is transformed into an object by using XSL stylesheet. XSLT templates are available for every element described in the model description XML for various data center elements including racks, Power Air Conditions (PDUs), Precision Air Conditioners (PACs), tiles, all the aisles, doors, exits, entries, pillars, and more.

 Information in Real-time
XML and XSLT convert descriptions into static visuals and as such does not cater to the real-time demands. To address this challenge, embedded Javascript can be used. As XSLT is capable of embedded Javascript, it is possible to achieve user interactions and real-time display of the data center layout.