Have you ever wondered how many users are storing their data in cloud? This technology is the basis of today's most popular services, like social networks and email. But did you know that actual “cloud” is nothing more than huge hangars packed with hundreds of servers storing terabytes of information? Such facilities are called data centers. Want to know more about these modern fortresses? Let’s dive in!
WHAT IS A DATA CENTER?
Data center or data processing center (DPC) is a special facility with a complex engineering system full of powerful computers (servers).
Data centers can look different: some are specially designed buildings; some are placed on the territory of former factory premises. There are even data centers in containers that can be transported.
WHO OWNES DATA CENTERS?
1. Hosting providers
Only large hosting providers can afford full-fledged data center buildings.
2. Big tech companies or online stores that sell products and services globally
For example, Google, Facebook, Amazon all have a bunch of their own data centers.
3. Private individuals
Private data centers provide their services on a commercial basis to smaller Internet companies or hosting providers that don't have their own data centers yet.
THREE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF A DATA CENTER
- Energy consumption
Smooth and seamless operation of a data center greatly depends on electric power (one needs a lot of it); but besides this, it is also important how efficient energy consumption is. There is a special indicator PUE (power usage effectiveness), calculated for every data center operation and for every type of IT equipment;
Like any other equipment, servers in the data center heat up quite fast. That’s why there are various methods used to cool them off: freon, chilled water and outdoor air;
- Connection quality (connectivity)
Data centers must provide a fast connection between its servers and the outside world – your business partners' computers, Internet services, etc. for immaculate data exchange.
WHAT SERVICES DATA CENTERS PROVIDE?
Data centers can normally provide various services across almost all modern industries (IT, telecom, finance and many others). These services include but are not limited to:
- Virtual hosting;
- Dedicated server;
- Client server location;
- Server racks rental;
- Data backup;
- Cloud PBX, etc.
FOUR LEVELS OF DATA CENTERS
The main characteristic of a data center is uptime. A good indicator is 99%, when the downtime (non-working time) is not more than 15 minutes a day, or 8 hours a month.
The reliability of a data center is measured by the Tier standards and is divided into 4 levels.
TIER 1: 99.671% FAULT TOLERANCE
1. In case of equipment failure, performance of the data center is interrupted.
2. During maintenance performance of the data center is also interrupted.
3. Redundant power supply is optional.
Suitable for office IT support.
TIER 2: 99.749% FAULT TOLERANCE
1. This standard provides improved power and some redundant cooling circuits.
2. Performance may be interrupted in case of equipment failures and errors.
3. It is required to stop the data center for maintenance works.
Recommended for the IT infrastructures and businesses where downtime is undesirable due to financial losses.
TIER 3: 99.982% FAULT TOLERANCE
1. The work of such data centers does not stop when equipment fails, or maintenance is carried out.
2. Redundancy of all electrical equipment and cooling systems is mandatory.
Recommended for businesses with 24/7 uptime, such as ISPs (Internet Service Providers).
TIER 4: 99.995% FAULT TOLERANCE
1. This reliability standard requires full duplication and redundancy of all data center systems.
2. The downtime per year does not exceed half an hour.
Recommended for special and military forces, important financial organizations.
DATA CENTERS AND NEW ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICES
Data centers are now spread all over the world. They are getting bigger and consuming more and more resources. Therefore, the world community has already begun to think "green" in this regard:
- New data centers are built near renewable energy sources - geysers, hydroelectric power stations, etc.
- Data center cooling systems consume more energy than the actual IT equipment. “Free-cooling” (cooling with external air from the outdoor) is now replacing other methods and reducing costs.
- There are experiments with placing data centers under water.
- The heat generated by data centers is used for utilities in nearby communities.
IN A NUTSHELL
Every day we need to store and process great amounts of information. Modern services (and even the normal functioning of this website) require the support of hundreds of powerful computers (servers). Servers are gathered in special facilities providing maintenance, necessary ventilation, physical safety and protection from virtual attacks. These are called data centers.
Modern IT infrastructures (as well as tech giants' businesses) are unimaginable without data centers. While having some environmental problems they are constantly updated to fit in modern “green” standards. Today it’s the only way to ensure uninterrupted access to the Internet and provide secure information storage services.