Modern data centers are very different from what they were a short time ago. The infrastructure has moved from traditional on-premises physical servers to virtual networks that support applications and workloads in physical infrastructure groups and within a multi-cloud environment.
In this era, data exists and is connected across multiple data centers, the perimeter, and public and private clouds. The data center must be able to communicate across all these multiple sites, both on-premises and in the cloud. Even the public cloud is a set of data centers. When hosting cloud applications, they use data center resources from the cloud provider.
In the business IT world, data centers are designed to support business applications and activities, including the following:
Data center design includes routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application delivery controllers. Owing to these components, store and manage business-critical data and applications, data center security is crucial in data center design. Together, they offer the following:
Network Infrastructure. This connects servers (physical and virtualized), data center services, storage, and external connectivity to end-user locations.
Storage Infraestructure. Data is the fuel of the modern data center. Storage systems are used to contain this valuable product.
Computing Resources.Applications are data center engines. These servers provide the processing capacity, memory, local storage, and network connectivity that drive applications.
Data center services are typically deployed to protect the performance and integrity of data center critical components.
Network security devices. These include firewall and intrusion protection to protect data center.
Application delivery guarantee. To maintain application performance, these mechanisms provide application recoverability and availability through automatic failover and load balancing.
Data center components require significant infrastructure to support the center's hardware and software. These include power subsystems, uninterrupted power supplies (UPS), ventilation, cooling systems, fire suppression systems, backup generators, and connections to external networks.
The most widely adopted standard for the design and infrastructure of a data center is ANSI/TIA-942. It includes standards for ANSI/TIA-942 compliant certificate, which ensures compliance with one of four categories of data center levels, classified according to redundancy and failure tolerance levels.
Level 1: Basic site infrastructure. A Level 1 data center offers limited protection against physical events. It has single-capacity components and a single non-redundant distribution path.
Level 2: Redundantly capable component site infrastructure. This data center offers enhanced protection against physical events. It has redundant capacity components and a single non-redundant distribution path.
Level 3: Site infrastructure with simultaneous maintenance. This data center virtually protects against any physical event by offering redundant capacity components and multiple independent distribution paths. Each component may be removed or replaced without disrupting services to end users.
Level 4: Failure-tolerance site infrastructure. This data center offers failure tolerance and redundancy highest levels. Redundant components and multiple independent distribution paths enable simultaneous maintenance and unique failure ubiquitously in the facility, without causing downtime.
Several types of data centers and service models are offered. Their ranking depends on whether they belong to one or many organizations, how they adapt (if adapted) to other data centers´ topology, what technologies they use for calculation and storage, and even their energy efficiency. There are four main types of data centers:
Developed and operated by owner companies and optimized for their end users. They are often hosted on corporate campus.
These data centers are managed by a third party (or service provider) on behalf of the company. The company rents the equipment and infrastructure instead of acquiring them.
In colocation data centers ("colo"), a company leases space within a data center that belongs to third parties and is located outside the company's premises. The colocation data center hosts the infrastructure (building, cooling, bandwidth, security, etc.), while the company provides and manages the components, including servers, storage, and firewalls.
In this type of off-premises data center, data and applications are hosted through a cloud service provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), IBM Cloud or other public cloud providers.
Learn more about data centers and what the future holds for them and your network.
Infrastructure evolution: from mainframes to cloud applications.
The computing infrastructure has gone through three massive waves of evolution over the past 65 years:
In the first wave, we saw the change from private mainframes to x86-based servers, on-premises and managed by internal IT teams.
In the second wave, there was widespread virtualization of the infrastructure that supported applications. This improved resource usage and workload mobility across physical infrastructure groups.
The third wave finds us in the present, where we are watching the move to the cloud, hybrid cloud, and cloud-native applications. The latter are the applications that were designed in the cloud.
This evolution has given rise to distributed computing. Here, data and applications are distributed across disparate systems, connected, and integrated by network services and interoperability standards to operate as a single environment. It meant that terms data center is now used to refer to the department responsible for these systems, regardless of where they are located.
Organizations may choose to develop and maintain their own hybrid cloud data centers, lease space within colocation facilities (colos), consume shared compute and storage services, or use cloud-based utilities. The net effect is that, today, applications are no longer in one place. They operate in various public and private clouds, managed offerings, and traditional environments. In this multi-cloud era, the data center has become vast and complex.