What is a Datacenter?

Posted On 2011-01-30 by FortyPoundHead
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Why is it important to have a data center for that matter? A data center is a facility that will house a good amount of the electronic equipment (and information) that a business or group has and needs. There will be computers and communication elements in this area as well as a number of other vital components to keeping the business running smoothly. What is essential about a data center is security and maintenance.

Companies may have more than one data center as well. Most mid size or higher companies will have at least one data center though. There are many types of data that can be stored in these centers. For example, a financial institution will maintain their clients accounts, numbers and activities in the data center. Businesses will keep client names, accounts, and projects in a data center as well. Because the data a business has is so very important to their existence and their performance, turning to a data center is an excellent option for this type of storage need.

Inside of a data center you are likely to find various types of computers, internet servers as well as many other items. To keep these items safe, data centers are often built and secured physically as well as logistically to protect them. Security is extremely high. They can be one of the safest environments in the city. The main job of a data center is to maintain and run applications to allow businesses to access and manage their files effectively.

There are many information portals now devoted to the subject and we recommend reading about it at one of these. Try googling for "data center info" and you will be surprised by the abundance of information on the subject. Alternatively you may try looking on Yahoo, MSN or even a decent directory site, all are good sources of this information.

Design Considerations

A data center can occupy one room of a building, one or more floors, or an entire building. Most of the equipment is often in the form of servers mounted in 19 inch rack cabinets, which are usually placed in single rows forming corridors (so-called aisles) between them. This allows people access to the front and rear of each cabinet. Servers differ greatly in size from 1U servers to large freestanding storage silos which occupy many tiles on the floor. Some equipment such as mainframe computers and storage devices are often as big as the racks themselves, and are placed alongside them. Very large data centers may use shipping containers packed with 1,000 or more servers each; when repairs or upgrades are needed, whole containers are replaced (rather than repairing individual servers).

Local building codes may govern the minimum ceiling heights.

Network Infrastructure

Communications in data centers today are most often based on networks running the IP protocol suite. Data centers contain a set of routers and switches that transport traffic between the servers and to the outside world. Redundancy of the Internet connection is often provided by using two or more upstream service providers (see Multihoming).

Some of the servers at the data center are used for running the basic Internet and intranet services needed by internal users in the organization, e.g., e-mail servers, proxy servers, and DNS servers.

Network security elements are also usually deployed: firewalls, VPN gateways, intrusion detection systems, etc. Also common are monitoring systems for the network and some of the applications. Additional off site monitoring systems are also typical, in case of a failure of communications inside the data center.

Power and Cooling

Historically, the cost of energy and the cost of the data center power and cooling infrastructure have not been on the radar for most Chief Financial Officers (CFO) and Chief Information Officers (CIO) and have not been considered in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) models. As a result, almost all of the focus has been on driving down the cost of IT equipment in the data center.

This was a reasonable assumption during the 90ís when server power and energy costs were substantially lower. However, power density has been increasing at an alarming rate. During this same period of rapid power growth, server costs have stayed virtually flat and raw performance has increased substantially.

Remember, to enable highly available business applications, part of the design of the datacenter should provide dual power paths to each rack and/or server. Ideally, each path should be fed by a seperate UPS system, with each UPS system fed by seperate generators as well as seperate feeds from local municipal power. As you can see, this can run into some serious money!


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