VMware is bringing augmented reality into the data center

The world’s largest organizations have automated many of the manual activities involved in running their infrastructure over the last few years, but the actual legwork is still done the old fashion way. VMware is betting that augmented reality will provide the missing piece needed to change that.

A recently published patent application from the software giant reveals the details of what appears to be an upcoming visual overlay designed to help technicians find their way around the humming maze of identical-looking racks and cabinets in the data center. As the company so helpfully illustrates in its filing:

Scale that up a few dozen orders of magnitude, add some twists and turns with the occasional cable sticking out, and you have a general idea of what the average facility looks like. The magic happens in panel no. 121, a representation of the designated desktops where the resident personnel interact with the VMware-supplied software running their infrastructure,  which supplies the data for the augmented reality system.

The location of each piece of equipment is transmitted to a client on the technician’s mobile device where the raw coordinates are translated into navigational guides layered over the view from the camera, like an indoor mesh between Google Street View and MapQuest. The filing indicates that VMware will use Qualcomm’s Vufaria software to handle that part, right up to the point where the desired rack has been successfully located.

From there, the technician is able to scan through the contents of the cabinet with their device until finding the server in need of maintenance. After establishing a match based on a combination of the server’s physical characteristics and metadata, Vufaria brings up a view of the processes running inside, including the amount of hardware resources allocated to each.

The system also provides other useful features such as automatic tracing of cables and the ability to shut off a malfunctioning server directly from the mobile interface instead of having to walk all the way back to the operations center. VMware has made no public mention of when the technology or when it might become available, but seeing that the patent was originally filed in October of 2013, customers likely won’t have to wait too much longer.