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What is a Data Centre?

3rd, October 2017

Not everyone works in, or is familiar with the operational management of ICT infrastructure; therefore subsequently I often find myself being asked "What is a Data Centre?" or "What is a Server Room?" and "What's the difference?" All of course valid questions thus need addressing, especially as the topic of data will become more prevalent in both our business and personal lives as technology continues to advance.

Simplistically, a server room is exactly what it says on the tin, a room that stores the servers. A data centre on the other hand is a whole facility dedicated to containing a vast amount of computer racks in an ultra-secure environment. The most identifiable difference is the size.

Almost any modern office will possess a server room, but large businesses, universities and retail operations will all invest in purpose built data centre infrastructure, as they all need to process large amounts of data, in a secure and controlled environment.

Enterprise Data Centres consist of a conglomeration of different equipment, typically comprising of three key elements;

  • Building - Cooling System, Air Economisers, Fire Prevention & Suppression and Access Flooring
  • I.T. - Equipment Racks, Air Containment System, Cooling Monitoring, Cabling, PDUs and Environment Sensors
  • Power - UPS, Generators, Switchgear, Panel Boards, Meters, Breakers and Transformers.

All this requires a physical facility with high-end security and sufficient physical space to house the entire collection of infrastructure and equipment.
Nowadays, there are alternative options to an Enterprise Data Centre which includes The Cloud or utilising a third-party rack hosting colocation service. In some cases, all three options are used as a Hybrid Solution which appears to be a growing trend according to Gartner whose research suggests that 90% of organisations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management capabilities by 2020.

Some organisations are opting for 'Edge Data Centre Technology' whereby smaller Modular Data Centres (MDC) are placed at multiple sites enabling the data to be closer to the source whilst an Enterprise DC is situated at HQ. This option significantly decreases the data volume that must be moved, lowers transmission costs, decreases latency issues and improves Quality of Service.

One thing that is for sure, is that the reliance on data centres is increasing being driven by some major trends; including the prediction that there will be 26 billion IoT connected things by 2020, a 30-fold increase from 9 million in 2009 (Gartner 2016) and 40% of IoT data will be stored, processed, analysed and acted upon at the Edge (IDC WW IoT Predictions 2015).

Data Centre Infrastructure Management should be a topic even for the non-techies out there, after all we all should at some point question where our data is stored and how safe it is really is.

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