Data centre: The heart of IT business functioning

Known earlier as ‘Server Room’, data centre is much more specialized, bigger and complex than simple server rooms of the long gone nascent IT era where a few processors sufficed the smooth running of an IT firm.

Today’s typical IT firms have diversified needs; every single staff requires internet connectivity; processes and products are much more connected and complex; data centres have become necessary. As the functioning of applications and processes required huge size of servers, and cables which were sometimes impossible to keep in house, data centers were born. It is the best, space optimized, practical and scalable way to house ICT infrastructure. Think of it as the brain of the any IT organisation. Instead of the brain being attached to the body (read IT Company) it is housed outside or in a remote location. Apart from compartmentalizing the entire hardware to an allocated position, a data centre has many other advantages. It increases the security of company critical data and improves costs; it’s even easier to handle disasters and recoveries and helps companies to focus on their core business rather than the peripherals that run it.

A data centre is a huge storage facility; a dedicated fixed space allotted for all keeping main servers, data storage equipment and environmental controls etc. A data centre contains arrays of numerous headless systems, data cables, connecting equipment like routers, fibre optic cables, cooling units, exhaust fans etc. It can be as simple as a rack sizing few square feet or can be as big as a shopping mall. Data centres have advanced security, fire, heat and water protection systems and cooling solutions. Given the critical content of the data centres, security breach of any order cannot be accepted by companies.

Every IT company has peculiar and specific needs of backup, servers, data bases etc. This in turn determines the type of data centres that it chooses for its functioning. Depending on size, features and topology, data centers are generally divided into four tiers; Tier-1, Tier-2, Tier-3 and Tier-4; with Tier-1 being the most basic version and Tier-4 being the most robust and exhaustive in terms of data capacity. The higher the tier, the lower is the downtime; for a data centre that adheres to tier-4 type will be extremely fault tolerant and down (nonfunctional) for hardly any time – a critical requirement for IT firms like ISP (Internet Service Providers) who cannot afford downtime of more than few minutes.

Running any processor/computer system/server has its share of emissions and temperature control requirements. There are ‘Dark Data Centres /Lights out Data Centre’ where power consumption is reduced by not having any lights to light up the facility; each machine is remotely managed; but not all data centres are dark. And when the number of servers runs in order of hundreds and thousands, temperature control, humidity check and proper ventilation become extremely crucial to the proper functioning and smooth running of these machines. If the wattage consumption of a single server is taken to be around 200 watts and additional consumption and wastage through routers, cables, air conditioners etc., the total consumption per server comes to around 250 watts per server. A simple multiplication by the number of servers per firm and it becomes very clear that these data centres require very efficient cooling systems and backup options.  Air conditioning and humidity control are crucial to data centres. More the electricity requirement, higher is are the greenhouse gas emissions. Companies are vowing to run their data centres entirely on renewable energies. When IT giants are involved, data centre costs can run up to billions of dollars. To cut costs and save themselves the trouble of looking after such humungous facilities, data centres are often outsourced.

In case of outsourced data centres, the entire facility is given to a third party on contract. It’s a growing trend and coupled with the financial and logistical benefits, it makes plenty of sense to let someone else handle the servers while you take care of the front end solutions.

When the company size is very large, there can be more than one data centres dedicated for the operations of a single company. Sometimes these data centres can spread around the globe. There can be a few hundred to about a million servers across all data centres for a single company. Given the huge initial setup costs that are to be borne by the parent company while setting up a data centre, companies generally create a data centre in a size that is bigger than what is required for current use; simply keep the provision for extra servers and devices that can easily kept for future use.

They pump the information across the organisation’s network, process it and store it back on its servers. Data centres are the heart of IT functioning.