A data center or datacenter (or datacentre), also called a server farm, is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices.
Data centers have their roots in the huge computer rooms of the early ages of the computing industry. Early computer systems were complex to operate and maintain, and required a special environment in which to operate. Many cables were necessary to connect all the components, and methods to accommodate and organize these were devised, such as standard racks to mount equipment, elevated floors, and cable trays (installed overhead or under the elevated floor). Also, old computers required a great deal of power, and had to be cooled to avoid overheating. Security was important – computers were expensive, and were often used for military purposes. Basic design guidelines for controlling access to the computer room were therefore devised.
During the boom of the microcomputer industry, and especially during the 1980s, computers started to be deployed everywhere, in many cases with little or no care about operating requirements. However, as information technology (IT) operations started to grow in complexity, companies grew aware of the need to control IT resources. With the advent of client-server computing, during the 1990s, microcomputers (now called "servers") started to find their places in the old computer rooms. The availability of inexpensive networking equipment, coupled with new standards for network cabling, made it possible to use a hierarchical design that put the servers in a specific room inside the company. The use of the term "data center," as applied to specially designed computer rooms, started to gain popular recognition about this time.
The boom of data centers came during the dot-com bubble. Companies needed fast Internet connectivity and nonstop operation to deploy systems and establish a presence on the Internet. Installing such equipment was not viable for many smaller companies. Many companies started building very large facilities, called Internet data centers (IDCs), which provide businesses with a range of solutions for systems deployment and operation. New technologies and practices were designed to handle the scale and the operational requirements of such large-scale operations. These practices eventually migrated toward the private data centers, and were adopted largely because of their practical results.
As of 2007[update], data center design, construction, and operation is a well-known discipline. Standard documents from accredited professional groups, such as the Telecommunications Industry Association, specify the requirements for data center design. Well-known operational metrics for data center availability can be used to evaluate the business impact of a disruption. There is still a lot of development being done in operation practice, and also in environmentally-friendly data center design.
Requirements for modern data centers
IT operations are a crucial aspect of most organizational operations. One of the main concerns is business continuity; companies rely on their information systems to run their operations. If a system becomes unavailable, company operations may be impaired or stopped completely. It is necessary to provide a reliable infrastructure for IT operations, in order to minimize any chance of disruption. Information security is also a concern, and for this reason a data center has to offer a secure environment which minimizes the chances of a security breach. A data center must therefore keep high standards for assuring the integrity and functionality of its hosted computer environment. This is accomplished through redundancy of both fiber optic cables and power, which includes emergency backup power generation.
Data center classification
The TIA-942:Data Center Standards Overview describes the requirements for the data center infrastructure. The simplest is a Tier 1 data center, which is basically a computer room, following basic guidelines for the installation of computer systems. The most stringent level is a Tier 4 data center, which is designed to host mission critical computer systems, with fully redundant subsystems and compartmentalized security zones controlled by biometric access controls methods. Another consideration is the placement of the data center in a subterranean context, for data security as well as environmental considerations such as cooling requirements.
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