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A data centre is a facility used as a computer room, housing systems and components and storage systems. It is also known as the server farm. When considering a new data centre, it can be easy to lose sight of the data centre design and can cause significant long-term problems.
Robert Thorogood, group director of Hurley Palmer Flatt, discusses important issues about data centres and data centre design.
A data centre’s main function is to house IT equipment necessary for the processing, storage and communication of data. To this end, the IT systems have either multiple servers (or mainframes for legacy DCs) that do the processing, storage arrays with hard disks, solid state drives or tape (older) and network switches that direct and deliver the data within or to the outside world via fibre links.
So in order for all of this equipment to work, it needs two essential elements:
1) Power which must be reliable and constant
2) Cooling to take away the heat, and also be reliable and constant
When looking at data centre design, there are the 3Ps, power, permit or planning and provision of fibre. Without all of these you can’t build and operate a data centre or server farm. Other factors such as climate, tax and grants are also important for data centre design, but not as critical.
In terms of power, the increase is dependent on two aspects, the density of the IT equipment in the space and the quantity of servers or area of build. These can be measured in a number of ways e.g.:
Load density – power per area typically Watts per square metre or foot (W/sq.m or W/sq.ft)
White space – the actual area where you can locate IT equipment, ie so it’s not plant or support space
Data centres are sold in different ways, for example:
End user – may look to buy a site or an existing shell building and make into his DC. So he will need to know if the site is big enough, does it have the 3Ps as above and then work out the rest with his design team.
Colocation Provider (wholesale) – the colocation developer will have already built a facility and will therefore be selling IT or white space with a power loading and a level of resilience e.g. Tier III.
Colocation Provider (retail) – the colocation provider again will have already built a facility but also installed racks with space for servers etc. the probider therefore sells on the basis of a number of racks with a level of power e.g. 2kW per rack and a resilience level e.g. Tier III.
IT services provider – this is where the service that is sold is purely an IT service, he provides the IT equipment and connections to the outside world, the client never goes in the space. Cloud services can be provided as well.
Overall, it is important to understand data centres, how they are sold and also take into consideration the data centre design.