While the Internet originally started as a connection between individual computers online sharing data with one another, times have changed. Now, much of the data that makes up the Internet is hosted on platforms known as data centers. Sharing unfathomable amounts of information every second, data centers have become a critical component of the world wide web.
The big drawback when it comes to data centers is that creating a new one comes with many challenges and difficulties. Fortunately, the advent of new data center technology and more sophisticated design choices are making these challenges easier to overcome. Let’s take a look at some of the main challenges of opening a data center, and the data center solutions that are making life easier for big businesses and consumers alike.
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What is a Data Center?
A data center is a structure built to handle the processing and handling of large amounts of data on a 24/7 basis. In addition to this, data centers also store and distribute information as well. Currently, there are between half a million to a million data centers in the world depending on how the term is defined. To ensure uninterrupted service, data centers typically have high-level security devices, backup power supplies, and environmental controls.
Data Center Variants
There are a variety of different data center classifications, but in the end, it tends to come down to three main types: exclusive, managed hosting, and colocation. Here is a brief recap of how they work and what makes them different:
Colocation Data Centers
This data center variant is designed to serve multiple business clients by renting out space that they fill with their own IT equipment. If a client needs more space they can either rent more or expand to other data centers.
Exclusive Data Centers
Exclusive data centers are typically owned by a single big business entity such as Google or Facebook. These data centers are operated and managed exclusively by their owner to serve their specific business needs.
Managed Hosting Providers
A managed hosting provider is a data center in which users don’t rent actual space, but rather the IT equipment that resides within the data center itself. These data centers and the equipment within are owned, operated, and managed by a third party.
The Availability Problem
While all data centers try to provide as much uptime for their users as possible, things will inevitably go wrong. This means that businesses or individuals that need greater availability of service will have to choose data centers that have systems in place to guarantee the availability of service. Systems such as redundancy facilities, mirrored sites, and disaster contingencies are all used to maximize service uptime. Sometimes a business that needs to ensure 100% uptime will use multiple data centers just to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket should a catastrophic failure occur at its primary data center. All businesses, regardless of size and industry, need an effective data center risk management plan to maximize availability and security at all times.
Getting LEED Certified
To encourage environmentally sustainable buildings, the United States Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. Achieving a high certification level with LEED is important for data centers because they use very high amounts of electricity and water. The good news is that advances in green technology are helping cut operation costs while becoming more environmentally friendly.
Challenges When Opening or Choosing a Data Center
Opening a data center comes with many challenges, most of which overlap with the factors that need to be taken into account when a business chooses a data center to meet its needs. Let’s go over these challenges and see how they’re being overcome with new technology and smart design decisions.
Weather and Geographical Stability
Every location carries its own environmental risks when it comes to opening a data center. This includes factors like seismic activity and extreme weather. To overcome these issues, data center construction has to balance cost vs risk when choosing a location. In some instances, such as the Bahnhof Data Center in Sweden which is buried under a mountain, extreme measures have been taken to ensure continued service.
Since the equipment used within data centers can only operate within a very specific temperature range, the local climate is a big factor when choosing a location for a data center. However, data centers can still be built in very hot or very cold areas. The drawback is that this can increase power costs by as much as 50% to keep the center’s equipment within the desired temperature range.
Power is typically the biggest cost when it comes to data center operation. Large amounts of electricity is needed to keep the temperature of the center stable and to power failure tolerance and redundancy systems. In some cases, an uninterruptable power supply will be required to guarantee continuous service. This can include the use of backup generators or private power grids if necessary.
Distance to Businesses and Customers
The physical distance between a data center and the people using it can have a large effect on the speed and latency of data transmission. Generally speaking, the closer the data center is to those using it, the better the quality of service. For businesses that own their own data center, having it built closer to their area of operation can make it easier to manage and supervise the center.
Overcoming Data Center Challenges
As you can see, opening a data center is a very “risk vs cost” endeavor. However, modern data center solutions are making it easier to build new data centers and for exiting data centers to provide uninterrupted service. Going forward both the risks and costs of opening a data center should continue to decrease as technology continues to advance.