What is a Data Center? A Complete Overview
Different organizations use data centers to store, process, and distribute data or applications to complete their shared IT operations. Data hubs centralize an organization’s most important assets (data), making them vital for performing daily tasks. Therefore, ensuring the reliability and security of data centres is the top priority for every business that uses them. From on-premise physical hubs with no internet to complete cloud-based online solutions – data centers have come a long way to become the core of any organization, be it a small one or a large one.
If you own a business in the 21st century, you should know what a data center is, how it can benefit you, and how to utilize it. Let’s get started!
What is a Datacenter, and how does it work?
In this digital age, the electronic exchange of data is required at every point. Be it a business transaction, a personal instruction, or just a TV broadcast. These days, data is delivered over the wires and radio waves in digital form. As we expect everything to be online and instant, the demand for computer clusters and advanced networking equipment has grown exponentially. Yes, in parallel with our demand for near-instantaneous digital information delivery, different organizations are incorporating high-tech to serve and handle our requests. That’s how the modern data center was born.
However, data centers are referred to as a singular thing, but in reality, they are composed of many technical components, i.e.,
- Compute: The high-end servers of a data center provides total memory and processing power that is required to run different applications.
- Storage: A data center generally houses the enterprise data on different storage components, ranging from tape drive media to solid-state drives. Alongside, it keeps multiple backups as well.
- Networking: This is the most important component in a data center framework. Networking is the interconnection between the data center counterparts as well as to the parts in the outer world like routers, application-delivery systems, nodes, switches, etc.
These components need to be managed properly to ensure continuity for IT operations. If you want to increase the efficiency of your data center, a thorough process of upgradation and strict security measures for both software and hardware is required.
What is a Data Center used for?
As mentioned, data centers are an integral part of all enterprises – big or small. It is built to support and benefit different businesses through the below-mentioned services.
- A data center stores data, manages it, and renders proper backup as well as data recovery support.
- It enables email and file-sharing through different nodes.
- Runs productivity applications smoothly.
- A data center is capable of handling high-volume e-commerce transactions.
- Provides proper Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
- It allows communication and collaboration through Virtual desktops.
- Supports Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and medium to large databases.
- Big data, Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also supported.
- Online gaming communities are also supported by data centers.
If your business involves any of these activities, relying on a data center will be your best bet to deliver uninterrupted services to your customers. It may surprise you to learn that there are currently 7 million data centers around the world. Data centers are used by every type of organization, from government to small businesses. A data center may be a physical location or a cloud-based system (public or private).
The digital revolution has given us a handful of options to choose a data center for our business based on our requirements. Yes, you can rent servers at a colocation facility, use a public-cloud service from providers like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, or Sony; or, avail of third-party data center services.
How to Maximize Data Center Efficiency?
To maximize the efficiency of a data center, you need to optimize certain components. But before we know it in detail, you must have a clear overview of data center architectures and requirements.
Well, every data center is built upon different architectures, and their requirements differ too. For instance, a private data center for a Government entity requires a bulletproof security system as they dedicatedly store huge amounts of classified data. Whereas a data center for public-cloud service providers like Amazon will need proper infrastructure, facility, and security too. But in both cases, the requirements for individual data centers will significantly differ from each other.
However, irrespective of this huge classification, the efficiency of a data center depends on a few core counterparts. You can achieve an effective data center operating system through a balanced investment in the equipment and facility. Here we’ve listed a few key areas where you need to focus on improving the data center service.
It is the usable space available in a data center for IT equipment. So that each IT operation runs smoothly, the facility needs to provide 24×7 access to information. Data centers rely on a good deal of resources, which make them among the world’s most energy-intensive facilities. The equipment should be kept at a certain temperature to maintain an optimal environment. This will result in improved efficiency in your data center.
2. Core Components:
The core components of a data center iare its storage and IT equipment/software, i.e., servers, media drives, network infrastructures like routers, switches, and different information security components like Firewalls. All of these core components consume huge power upon running for a long time. If you optimize the power usage of these parts while ensuring time-to-time storage clean up and maintenance, it will optimize the overall power usage of your data center and increase its efficiency.
3. Support Infrastructure:
The support infrastructure of a data center secures sustainability and the highest possible availability. The Uptime Institute has segregated the data centers into four tiers, depending on their availability. It ranges from 99.671% to 99.995%. We will discuss the tiers in detail in the next section. However, a support infrastructure includes the following counterparts, and optimizing each will increase the overall potential of your data center.
- UPS – Uninterruptible Power Sources or UPS includes battery banks, redundant power sources, and generators. When the whole power source backup renders robust services, the uptime of your data center automatically increases.
- Environmental control- CRAC, HVAC, and exhaust systems are included in the part of support infrastructure. When you use premium quality parts, they consume less power to give maximum output. This eventually results in increasing the data center efficiency.
- Physical security system – It includes biometrics and the CCTV surveillance system, which must run round the clock. You’ll ensure the reliability of your data center while ensuring its continuous service.
The personnel involved in the IT operations are also an integral part of the complete efficiency of a data center. Since they will monitor the operations and maintain the equipment, it’s mandatory to address their every concern.
Standards of Data Center Infrastructure:
As mentioned above, a certain standard of data centers is accepted and used worldwide.
The set standard is ANSI/TIA-942, which addresses the design and infrastructure of a data center. An ANSI certified data center ensures compliance with one of these four data center tiers mentioned below. Tier 4 data centers are more complex than Tier 1 data centers, but that does not mean a Tier 4 data center will only fulfill your business needs. Tier 4 data centers can be an over-investment if they are not right for your business. The same applies to the other three. This is why learning about each data center in detail is vital before choosing one.
Note: These data center tiers are rated depending on the level of fault tolerance and redundancy that a data center can handle.
Tier 1: Basic Data Center Infrastructure [99.671% Availability]
Downtime: 28.8 hours annually
A basic data center infrastructure provides 99.671% availability. It means a basic site infrastructure renders limited protection against any physical event that can occur in a data center. Tier 1 data center incorporates single capacity components and only one non-redundant sharing path is used for both power and cooling.
Tier 2: Redundant-capacity Component Data Center Infrastructure (99.741% Availability)
Downtime: 22 hours annually
The Tier 2 site infrastructure offers improvised protection against any physical event. It prevents data loss or another unexpected damage that can lose your work efficiency. It incorporates both redundant-capacity components and a sole non-redundant distribution path.
Tier 3: Concurrently Maintainable Data Center Infrastructure (99.982% Availability)
Downtime: 1.6 hours annually
A tier 3 data center is designed with multiple paths to supply power and cooling to the whole site. It ensures multiple independent distribution paths and renders redundant-capacity components to protect the data center from physical events. The best part is, all these components can be removed and replaced without disturbing the others components in case of any technical glitch.
Tier 4: Fault-tolerant Data Center Infrastructure (99.995% Availability)
Downtime: 26.3 minutes annually
From the name, you can understand that a Tier 4 data center is built to tolerate the faults completely and provide the highest level of redundancy. Yes, the redundant-capacity components and different distribution paths allow you to maintain the availability of the data center even if there is a fault anywhere in the data center; you can repair that component or remove it without causing any downtime.
Types of Data Center:
Apart from the standard, the data centers can be classified into 4 specific types. This classification is done depending on a few parameters-
- Who owns the data center, any individual or multiple organizations?
- How does the data center fit into the topology of other centers?
- What are the computing and storage methods used in that particular data center?
- Is the data center energy efficient?
Now that you know what factors to consider to categorize a data center, let’s have a look at the four categories now.
1. Enterprise Data Center
An enterprise data center is built, operated, and owned by a specific company to provide its end users with maximum service efficiency. This type of data centers are housed on the corporate campus and managed by the enterprises only.
2. Third-party Data Center
These managed services data centers are operated by third parties on behalf of a single company, which takes the equipment and facility on lease instead of buying it completely. A third-party data center can be located anywhere other than the company’s own campus.
3. Colocation Data Center
A colocation data center runs with both parties’ contribution, i.e., the company and the third party. That means, A company rents a space within an already existing data center, which is owned by others. The colocation data center hosts the infrastructure, including building, bandwidth, cooling, security, etc. Whereas the company provides as well as operates other components like servers, firewalls, and storage.
4. Cloud Data Center
Unlike a traditional data center, a cloud data center is a form of off-premise data centers. The data and applications in a cloud data center are hosted by well-known cloud service providers, such as Microsoft (Azure), Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, etc. Cloud data centers are being used by companies that prefer remote working and want to protect their databases from physical damage.
We’ve reached the final section of our guide. You got every information you need to choose your own data center. To add further, you can even build and maintain hybrid cloud data centers or just rely on leasing space within a colocation facility or using public cloud-based compute and storage services. Whatever option you choose, make sure that you are prepared to deal with this multi-cloud era. It’s because one application doesn’t reside in just one place these days. The software is instead operated in various public and private clouds, as well as in traditional environments. Thus, optimizing your data center should only happen after you take the needs of the end users into account.