So over the past few days at work we have been playing with various architectural models for a BI engine, trying to see what the best fit is. One of the bit’s of tin we are considering is the Sun x4500, basically because you get a whopping amount of disk for relative peanuts, and it claims to go like the proverbial doodoo of a stick.

What I needed really was to talk to a Sun rep and probably have a poke at one. Now I could have talked to the Sun call centre and maybe arranged for a demo at the local Sun offices, though that would take a lot of messing about and incurred some sort of cost in time and resource. Or we could have gone to the web site (we did), but 2d pictures on the web with no-one to talk to was not really enough.

And so as you may have guessed, I decided to have a look in SL. I decided pop along to Sun’s island’s in SL and see what I could find out there. After a little looking round I came across the replica of the Sun Supercomputing 07 pavilion that they have (re)created in SL, it was full of models of various bit’s of Sun kit (including the x4500) and there were a good number of Sun employee’s loitering. So asking one of them who was free, what they know about the x4500, they took me over to the model of the x4500, and proceeded to answer the bunch of questions I had about it. Just like walking into a store in a mall, and asking a shop assistant about a potential purchase.

So what I hear you ask? Why is this such a big deal? What did doing this in SL give me that other methods couldn’t?

Well, its certainally felt a damn sight more ‘natural’ than browsing Sun’s website. The fact that you are in a 3d space, with people and objects and servers that you can walk round, take a closer look at and ask a helpful ‘shop assistant’ all about it. It was interactive in a way that the web could never be. The person was there who I could turn to, and ask questions as I needed, like I say it just felt natural.

Of course the experience could never compete with actually seeing one in the flesh, and talking to a real in the flesh sales rep. But it was a damn sight cheaper and much less hassle than going to a Sun shop, though I don’t think Sun have retail outlets and so it would have meant waiting for some sort of convention / show and traveling there, in this case Supercomputing ’07 was in Reno in the States, and I don’t think the client could have justified that traveling expense to ask a few questions.

So here is where I think SL fit’s in, it sits half-way between the Web and SL as a shop window for business. It has all the cost and convenience and geography shrinking aspects of the web, with the 3d’ness and natural experience of RL. It’s got to be a winner! My client benefited as I saved a bunch of travel expenses, and got some valuable information for a key project, and Sun benefited as it may have nudged me nearer a purchase (no promises though!)

In the words of Brian Potter, ‘it’s the future’!

P.S. Thanks for the nudge AK :-)