What is the data center, and how does it work
Brief information about the structure of the data center
We all already know that a data center is a specially prepared building (it can be almost any equipped building) which stores IT equipment for processing, communicating, and storing data and any digital activity. Any such building is part of the Internet. It is also a part of the entertainment, communication, navigation, finance, and security sphere.
Interestingly, the term data center can refer to storage of any size, from a small server room to multi-story buildings with many kilometers of area.
The main options of any data center include:
- The building;
- IT equipment;
Let’s talk more about each part.
Data center building.
Externally, most data centers look normal. It means that a standard building does not catch the eye with anything remarkable, but there are some exceptions. For example, the data center in Barcelona is located in a chapel building. There are also data centers in mountain caves under a rock in a bomb shelter. Unusual data centers are not built in the city center and located in buildings originally intended for something else.
We return to standard data centers — their goal is to remain unnoticed. The architecture and structure of the building are also simple and ordinary. Data centers are like warehouses — there is a free space in the middle of the building for «technical stuffing». Sometimes people say that the data center is a warehouse that takes steroids. DCs are built from materials that are used in the construction of offices. The difference may be in the strength characteristic. Their parts are more potent and more extensive to withstand natural disasters and other force majeure. They ensure the availability of infrastructure at any time, regardless of the impact on the building. The most important data centers where the departments of national security protection work are located in the mountains or deep underground.
It refers to the things that fill the building and why this particular DC is created. Everything invisible to the eye but necessary for the operation of the worldwide network and mobile communications is placed inside this equipment.
IT equipment is understood as three «containers,» including servers, memory modules, and communications.
Applications and various programs run on servers. Any social network, email services, and, for example, games like «Minecraft» work with the help of servers. They are generally the same as a PC or a laptop. The difference in specialized equipment is power, speed, and cost increase in favor of servers. The size of servers is closer to the size of a pizza box installed in special racks — data center cabinets.
Electricity is needed as a source of energy for the functioning and operation of server hardware and other components of software products. They also need cooling to remove heat produced during operation, which is given a lot of attention when planning a data center and its technical aspects. This is the primary purpose of data centers — providing uninterrupted power supply and constant cooling, ensuring servers’ availability from small companies to large TV channels.
The service network in the data center is the primary source of energy. Some parts of the equipment are connected to two separate networks for a safety net. Diesel generators are used as backup energy sources, ensuring the data center’s uninterrupted operation. Diesel generators can provide power for hours or even days. However, they require refueling with diesel fuel during the process. Spare generators are always installed in kits, especially for huge data centers.
Types of additional power supply in case of an emergency power outage:
Switches-AVR — (automatic switching on of the reserve) can switch the energy source from the mains to spare generators. The uniqueness of this device is that it switches on without interrupting the work process. AVRs are electrical panels installed inside the data center and are usually not visible.
UPS — (uninterruptible power supply) is activated in the event of the major network’s sudden failure in the shutdown’s first seconds. Usually, its work is enough for a short period (from several to 10 minutes), during which the generators are started. A typical UPS is made of batteries or flywheels that produce enough power to supply a power gap. They cannot replace spare generators and work for a long time.
PDMs — (Power Distribution Modules) are physical outlets to which IT equipment is connected for installation at the rack level. PDMs are built into each such rack and consist of multiple outlets for all equipment.
This part of the data center aims to remove the heat generated by the IT equipment. Everything is the same as in a home desktop PC or laptop. Any equipment heats with intensive use: servers, communications, and memory.
If the heat cannot be removed, the equipment can overheat and turn off, which will have a terrible impact on the costs and reputation of both the companies in the data center and the reputation of the data center itself. Imagine you left your iPhone in the sun on a hot summer day, so it can crash and lose all data.
The principle of redundancy is also welcomed in cooling systems. This is an essential thing in the data center. The cooling structure is HVAC type air conditioning modules (heating, ventilation, air conditioning). Air conditioners are physically located in the same area as the leading equipment. It is necessary because they interact directly with each other. The first supports the work of the second.
Most cooling devices consist of two parts. The first is a fan to move air and cooling elements to remove heat. The principle of operation is similar to a conventional office or home air conditioner, except that the dimensions differ in favor of an industrial one.
Cooling units are often used for large data centers because they are more efficient. They generate cold water, which moves to the module inside the data center. Cooling systems can be very complex due to their mechanical and electrical parts.
Thus, we can understand that a data center is not just a building with equipment but rather a complex and technologically advanced network that can ensure the availability of resources in case of any force majeure. It means that their equipment will always be available.