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What are data centers, and gow they are changing?


A data center is a physical facility that enterprises use to house their business-critical applications and information. As they evolve, it’s important to think long-term about how to maintain their reliability and security.

What is a data center?

Data centers are often referred to as a singular thing, but in actuality they are composed of a number of technical elements. These can be broken down into three categories:

  • Compute: The memory and processing power to run the applications, generally provided by high-end servers
  • Storage: Important enterprise data is generally housed in a data center, on media ranging from tape to solid-state drives, with multiple backups
  • Networking: Interconnections between data center components and to the outside world, including routers, switches, application-delivery controllers, and more

These are the components that IT needs to store and manage the most critical systems that are vital to the continuous operations of a company. Because of this, the reliability, efficiency, security and constant evolution of data centers are typically a top priority. Both software and hardware security measures are a must.

In addition to technical equipment, data centers also require a significant amount of facilities infrastructure to keep the hardware and software up and running. This includes power subsystems, uninterruptable power supplies (UPS), ventilation and cooling systems, backup generators and cabling to connect to external network operators.

Data-center architecture

Any company of significant size will likely have multiple data centers, possibly in multiple regions. This gives the organization flexibility in how it backs up its information and protects against natural and man-made disasters such as floods, storms and terrorist threats. How the data center is architected can require some difficult decisions because there are almost unlimited options. Some of the key considerations are:

  • Does the business require mirrored data centers?
  • How much geographic diversity is required?
  • What is the necessary time to recover in the case of an outage?
  • How much room is required for expansion?
  • Should you lease a private data center or use a co-location/managed service?
  • What are the bandwidth and power requirements?
  • Is there a preferred provider?
  • What kind of physical security is required?

Answers to these questions can help determine how many data centers to build and where. For example, a financial services firm in Manhattan likely requires continuous operations as any outage could cost millions. The company would likely decide to build two data centers within close proximity, such as one in New Jersey and one in Connecticut, that mirror each another. One of them could then be shut down entirely with no hit to operations because the company could run off the other.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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