Ten years ago, data centres were the preserve of big companies with lots of money. These days, data centres are relevant to just about everyone, from the average Joe in the street, to small and medium sized business. And yes, they are still just as important to those big companies.
Data centres are secure facilities which provide the ideal environment for computer equipment to live in. They are, in effect, earthquake-proof concrete bunkers, with controlled access, redundant power supplies (typically consisting of connections from multiple electricity providers, a bank of Uninterruptible Power Supply batteries and a diesel generator), air conditioning, water cooling and fire suppression systems. They are marvels of civil, mechanical and, because they consume enormous quantities of power, electrical engineering.
So far, the data centre is a very physical facility, with its size and mass restricting it to one geographical location.
But it is the working components of the data centre – and multiple redundant connections to the internet - which breaks the shackles of the physical world and makes the data centre accessible to (and from) anywhere in the world.
Inside a Data Centre
Contained within their cool corridors and reinforced walls are the fundamental building blocks of computing: servers, storage arrays and networking switches. Other specialist equipment includes security and traffic management appliances: data centres are constructed for the best available protection of information. Data centres are like 5 star hotels for computer equipment: all the amenities that computers need are available, with the costs shared across every item.
From ‘blade’ servers based on commodity component such as those found in your PC, to high-end mainframes, there are typically thousands or hundreds of thousands of devices in any given data centre.
The density of the equipment packed into a data centre allows economies of scale to be reached; further underpinned by technologies like virtualisation and optimisation techniques, the data centre is a powerhouse capable of delivering finely tuned software and infrastructure services at exceptionally low cost.
It is thanks to data centres – and they can be located anywhere in the world – that consumers today access an enormous variety of powerful information-driven services on their handsets. These facilities also equip businesses of all kinds can access every technology service required to run their operations, without owing anything more than an access device. With to the massive scale of a data centre, these services can be securely delivered at tiny fractions of the cost of self-provisioning similar applications and infrastructure; in many cases, free options are available.
Who Owns the Data Centre?
Some are privately owned; others are owned by major service providers like Google and Amazon Web Services, with capacity (and applications) available commercially. Data centres today play an integral role in daily life and they are located all over the world.
Finally, if you ever wondered just exactly where the ‘cloud’ is, the answer is simple. It’s in the data centre!