Data Centers 101: The Dummy’s Guide to Data Centers


The Dummy’s Guide to Data Centers

In the age of big data, mobile devices, remote work, streaming video, online gaming, e-commerce, and social networks -- data centers are becoming more important than ever before.

The global increase in data centers will no doubt continue into the future, with a recent report predicting that the world’s data will grow 61 percent by 2025, reaching an extraordinary 175 zettabytes (which is 175 billion terabytes, for comparison’s sake).

If you’re looking to learn more about the world of data centers, you’ve come to the right place. 

This brief article—which is the first in a series of introductory posts intended for buyers and construction teams—will explain in simple terms what a data center does and how it operates.

What are the main functions of a data center?

To give the best answers to this question, it’s worth understanding how data centers operated in a historical sense. In the past, data centers have been used by organizations to support business processes and applications. The data center was where functions like data storage, backup and recovery took place. It’s also where business applications and email services were hosted.

In recent years, however, the data center has evolved to accommodate rapid data growth, the need for ever-present connectivity and customer expectations around always-available, high-performance services. Data centers are where the cloud lives, and they’re what will power the 5G networks of tomorrow (and today!).

Today’s data centers are also used to deliver seamless online gaming experiences, ensure video streams don't constantly buffer, house big data, enable machine learning for AI functions, support large-scale e-commerce transactions and more.

To ensure users have superior experiences, even as the demand for services scales and scales, more and more large organizations—like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google—are building hyperscale data centers, which are designed to accommodate an abundance of data traffic at scale.

It remains to be seen what the future looks like. But one thing is certain: As new technologies emerge—particularly those that require lots of data—the data center will play a pivotal role in their existence and continue to make data transfer more efficient for businesses, clients and consumers.

Discover how modular data centers bypass the skilled labor shortage, new energy  regulations and the rising cost of real estate.

What are the different kinds of data center equipment?

At a basic level, a data center collects, stores, processes, and distributes data to power the applications we use every day. To make this possible, data centers are full of mission critical computing and networking equipment. As you consider building your next data center, here are some of the more prominent components you’ll need to get your systems up and running.

1. Switches

A data center switch connects multiple devices on a network and facilitates the communication between them.

2. Racks

A data center rack is the physical “furniture” that is used to organize data center equipment. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of data center racks: open frames, wall-mount racks and rack enclosures.

3. Uninterruptible power source (UPS) systems

In the world of data centers, a UPS system is a secondary power source that ensures systems remain online in the event the primary system fails. This provides redundancy that’s needed to make sure systems and applications are accessible in any event.

4. Ethernet cables

Ethernet cables are used to wire high-speed connections between devices in a data center. By wiring the devices together directly, you typically get much higher speeds and lower latencies than you would with a Wi-Fi connection.

5. Servers

Servers are hardware (and, with virtualization, sometimes software) that supports other applications and devices, which are called clients.

6. Cooling systems

With so many servers running constantly, data centers tend to get pretty hot—and fast. As such, state-of-the-art cooling systems are a critical component of data center design.

7. Firewalls

A firewall is a security system that exists at the edges of a data center network and monitors incoming and outgoing traffic. It makes sure that only authorized individuals can access systems and only authorized data is allowed to flow into and out of the network.

8. Routers

A router is a device that “directs traffic” by sending data packets from one computer to another over a network. Routers link multiple networks together.

Take your data center knowledge to the next level!

Now that you have a better understanding of the basics of data center design, it’s time to learn even more about the world of data center construction.

Check out our free e-book, The Complete Guide to Modular Data Center Solutions, to learn what’s driving data center demand, the factors that are changing data center construction, the rise of modular data centers and their associated benefits, the TCO advantage of modular data centers, what to look for in a modular data center provider and more.

The Complete Guide to Modular Data Centers


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