What is a Data Center?

data center with server

In my younger years, I recall imagining data centers as massive halls jam-packed with huge, bulky computers, adorned by entangled coloured cables, flickering lights and large round spinning tapes recording data. Few employees will be employed in long white lab-like uniforms, checking the situation every so often.

Well, I wasn`t that far from the truth actually.  

A typical data center will be located in a physical facility which businesses utilise to group and organise their crucial information, derived from a network of computers, which facilitate pooled submissions and records.

Let`s delve more, to see why we still need data centers and how they transformed over the years. 

From Then to Now

In the beginning, early data centers had to be housed in dedicated buildings, which weren`t always near the mother company headquarters. These had to be manned, so qualified personnel had to be physically present, which meant more expenses for the business.

The dawn of modern technology brought with it the virtual world, and cloud systems. Modern structures have now enabled companies to reduce human intervention, since computer-generated setups support applications and assignments across to the cloud system.

This facilitates tasks, and gives a peace of mind to the business, since all records are being grouped, recorded and backed up faster. Also, an eventual required retrieval will be easier to locate and attain.

The applications held in the cloud make use of data center resources from the cloud provider, thus even the cloud itself is a collection of data centers.

Still Needed

Data centers are required even today, serving as support to businesses` applications and activities, which include but are not limited to:

  • Emails & documents distribution.
  • Productivity operating systems – such as Microsoft Office and Google Workspace.
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) – business software which manages customer communication and sales efforts.
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and databases – another software used by organisations to accomplish the day-to-day business and tasks in an easier and more effective manner.
  • Large information, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive analysis or machine learning – utilising historical data to predict future events, typically building a mathematical model capturing important trends.
  • Virtual desktops, networking and cooperation services – for virtual desktops, these are operating systems and applications in which the desktop site is detached from the physical hardware usually used and is made available virtually in a different setting.

Fundamental Gears of a Data Center

The various routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems and servers, among others, make up the design of a typical data center or the network infrastructure. Since it holds corporate sensitive data, security features are imperative.

End-users will be connected to both virtual and physical servers thanks to the network infrastructure, and while data is the energy which keeps a data center going, storage systems are key to keep this critical info.

Last but not least, the machines of the data center – applications. The processing, memory, local storage and network connectivity are provided by servers which manoeuvre applications.

Typical Operation of a Data Center

Generally, a large company would need a data center to guard an array of sensitive information, while enhancing and protecting its performance and integrity.

The running of a data center is mainly twofold:

  • Network Security – like firewalls to shield the data center
  • Application delivery assurance – devices which provide application durability and accessibility via spontaneous failover, while stabilising load, to upkeep application performance

What are the Components of a Data Center?

Typically, a data center facility holds an infrastructure supporting the various housed hardware and software. These include:

  • Power subsystems
  • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS)
  • Ventilation
  • Cooling systems
  • Fire suppression
  • Backup generators
  • Connections to external networks

Data Centre Infrastructure Standards

The most commonly implemented standard is ANSI/TIA-942, which is certified and in compliance with one of four classifications, which are rated in tiers for levels of idleness and fault lenience.

The four aforementioned tiers are classified as follows:

  • Tier 1 – Basic site infrastructure – shielding against physical events is restricted, while it holds single-capacity modules and a single, non-redundant supply route.
  • Tier 2 – Redundant-capacity component site infrastructure – enhanced security against physical occasions, with redundant physical modules, and a single non-redundant supply route.
  • Tier 3 – Concurrently maintainable site infrastructure – this type of data center defends against all physical cases, providing redundant-size modules and manifold autonomous supplying trails. Moreover, each module can be detached or substituted without unsettling facilities to end users.
  • Tier 4 – Fault-tolerant site infrastructure – top data center which delivers peak levels of fault tolerance and severance. Redundant-capacity mechanisms and several autonomous supplying paths permit simultaneous sustainability and one fault anywhere in the connection without triggering interruption.

Data Centers Categories

Amongst other facets, which we`ll note below, they are also divided with those that are owned by one company or by various organisations, what tech they use for computing, storing and even how much energy they consume/save.

Four varieties of data centers:

  • Enterprise – Constructed, owned and run by corporations and augmented for end users. Usually they are located on the corporate`s estate.
  • Managed services data centers – As the name goes, these are managed by third parties on behalf of the company, while the latter lets the equipment and infrastructure instead of purchasing it.
  • Colocation data centers – Also known as “colo” in jargon, in this case an organisation will just rent a space within a data center which is owned by others and which is situated in a different location. The colocation data center will provide the infrastructure, while the renting company will provide and manage the components, including servers, storage and firewalls.
  • Cloud data centers – This data center is off premises, while data and applications are accommodated by a cloud service provider such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft (Azure) and IBM Cloud or other public supplier.

In conclusion

There are several types of data centers then, top tiers or less, owned or leased. These structures are the fulcrum of an organisation, as with the avant-garde cloud systems precious data is saved, stored and is easily accessible or shared on demand.