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What Is a Data Center?

Updated on March 26, 2022
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A data center is a physical place where data is stored and computed. It centrally organizes shared IT operations and equipment for storing, processing, and disseminating data and applications. Therefore, the security and reliability of the data center and its information is a top priority for any organization. Key components of a data center design typically include routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application delivery controllers.

What Types of Data Center Are Available?

The evolution of traditional data centers into cloud computing data centers is a gradual process. In terms of the services provided, data centers can be divided into four types, enterprise data centers, managed service data centers, colocation data centers and cloud data centers.

Enterprise data centers

They are facilities that are built and operated by enterprises to support their data processing and storage needs. Generally placed in corporate campuses.

Managed services data centers

Managed services data centers are data center models that are deployed, managed and monitored by a third-party data center service provider. They provide features and functionality similar to that of a standard data center, but through a managed service platform.

Colocation data centers

Typically, various companies seeking colocation services rent space from colocation providers and offer management components, including servers, storage, and firewalls, while colocation data centers provide colocation infrastructure: buildings, cooling, bandwidth, security, and more.

Cloud data centers

Cloud data center is a new type of data center that is fully virtualized based on cloud computing architecture, e.g., companies can host both data and applications to cloud service providers. To better distinguish colocation and cloud hosting, you can read Colocation vs. Cloud Hosting and How Do Both Compare?

What Are the Core Components of a Data Center?

Routers, switches, firewalls, servers, storage systems, application delivery controllers etc., as the essential infrastructure for data center design, together form the core components of the data center: computing, storage, and network. Three core components help ensure data security and availability.

Computing resources

The processing and memory for running applications on a server may be virtualized, physical, distributed among containers or distributed among remote nodes. But these servers can do data processing, storage, and network connectivity for applications.

Storage infrastructure

Data storage is a very important function of the data center, storing a large amount of terminal data.

Network infrastructure

Cabling, switches, routers, and firewalls are all facilities of data center network devices that connect servers to each other and to the outside network.


What Are Included in a Data Center Facility?

The construction of data center infrastructure is vital to the safety of the data center, including integrated wiring, partition decoration, uninterruptible power supply (UPS), computer room environmental monitoring system, ventilation, cooling system, grounding system, lightning protection system, access control, monitoring, etc.

What Are the Standards for Data Center Infrastructure?

According to the ANSI/TIA-942 standard for data center design and data center infrastructure, four types of data center tiers are commonplace.

Tier1: Basic capacity. Tier 1 data center offers dedicated site infrastructure with physical protection of IT equipment. It does not include redundant equipment, tools and network services, and is the most basic technical layout.

Tier2: Redundant-capacity components. Tier 2 data center combines the characteristics of Tier 1 data center with redundant IT equipment to improve availability and data protection. It includes multiple servers, storage, networking equipment, and telecommunications equipment.

Tier3: Concurrently maintainable. Tier 3 data center has a high level of security that protects against almost all physical incidents. It utilizes redundant power equipments and networks to enhance availability, accessibility and survivability, and each component can be removed or replaced without disrupting service to end users, greatly improving the uptime of a data center.

Tier4: Fault tolerance. Tier 4 data center, which adds the concept of fault tolerance to the site infrastructure topology. All components can be designed to be 2N fully redundant. A failure of any of the power or cooling infrastructure components will also not cause downtime.


Why Is a Data Center Important to Business?

In the world of enterprise IT, the data center is no longer just a supplemental storage facility, but is designed to support enterprise business applications and activities. These may include:

  • Data storage and management

  • Data security

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and databases

  • Big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning

  • Virtual desktops, communications and collaboration services

How Does a Data Center Operate?

As the terminal data storage and aggregation place, the data center needs to ensure the security and integrity of its internal facilities.

Network security. Protect data centers from malicious inbound network traffic by placing a strong security perimeter or firewall between external traffic and the internal network.

Application delivery. Data centers contain physical or virtual servers that are connected internally and externally through networks and communication equipment to store, transmit, and access digital information. Data centers use software to cluster servers and distribute workloads among them.

Data Center Evolution

Infrastructure evolution

IT transformation has experienced three waves and is currently in the golden age of information technology innovation.

The first wave -- bare metal servers. Bare metal servers are physical servers provided to a single tenant for a dedicated cluster of computers.

The second wave -- the virtual machine manager. Virtualization is the emulation of a computer system that enables a physical computer to run one or more virtual machines.

The third wave -- cloud services. A cloud is an IT environment that abstracts, pools, and shares scalable resources across a network.

Architecture evolution

The network of traditional large data centers usually has a three-tier structure that is divided into three layers: the core layer, the aggregation layer, and the access layer.

With the explosion of data brought about by the development of the Internet and the evolution of virtualization technology, data centers also faced challenges: dynamic migration and high performance. With three-tier architecture gradually losing momentum in the modern data center, spine-leaf architecture comes to its place. The leaf-spine design only consists of two layers: the core layer and the access layer created, which could achieve an L2 broadcast domain in the entire data network and dynamic migration.

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