The Technology Behind Data Centers

The Technology Behind Data Centers

Technology: A data center houses critical computing resources in a controlled environment. It supports various enterprise applications and provides high availability.

It’s also a place for IT staff to manage the equipment and software. The facilities can range from new construction to re-purposing warehouses or even salt mines and war-era bunkers.

1) Power

Power is the lifeblood of the data center, enabling the fifth industrial revolution of connectivity and automation. However, today’s data centers are being overwhelmed by a surge of new business processes, applications, and data – whether it is from IoT, OT, patient monitoring, or other edge locations. This influx of digital workloads is straining current data centers and creating an unsustainable IT environment.

Data center managers must ensure that the data and associated systems always have sufficient power to run at peak performance without impacting operations or causing system disruptions. To meet this need, the industry is moving toward more efficient data center power supplies and energy storage. Newer battery chemistries, for example, allow more modular energy storage with lower upfront costs. And wide bandgap transistors enable data center power supply designs that are more compact, economical, and operationally efficient.

The high availability of data centers requires them to have multiple power sources. In addition to the local electricity grid, data centers typically rely on backup diesel or gas generators for power in case of a power outage. Electricity from the grid and the generators are delivered at medium voltage (typically 10 kV or 20 kV in the Netherlands, for example). These power sources are then transformed to a low voltage by one or more transformers within the data center facility.

After the transformation, the low-voltage electricity is distributed through main distribution boards (MDBs), which house fuses and circuit breakers. These boards manage the incoming power from the grid and can automatically start the backup generators in the event of a power outage. The MDBs also monitor and control the backup generator fuel levels to prevent them from running dry during a long-term outage.

Many of these power distribution and monitoring systems are being replaced by smarter, more efficient solutions. For example, AI plays a crucial role in modern data centers, observing power distribution, cooling efficiency, and server workloads in real time. This enables the software to make efficiency adjustments and shift workloads to underutilized resources. Additionally, AI can detect potential component failures and other power-related threats and respond to them automatically.

2) Cooling

Data centers generate a lot of power, which produces heat. To prevent equipment malfunctions or failure, they must be properly cooled to maintain ideal temperature and humidity conditions. Data center cooling is the collective term for the systems, tools, and techniques that ensure that a data center has adequate ventilation and regulated airflow to keep all IT equipment functioning optimally.

Cooling technologies have come a long way in recent years, thanks to major advances in cooling system efficiency, which help data centers minimize energy consumption while maintaining temperature and humidity control. The latest innovations include direct-to-chip liquid cooling, which uses flexible tubes to bring nonflammable dielectric fluid directly to the processor chip or motherboard component that’s generating the most heat. The cooling fluid absorbs the heat, turns it into vapor, and carries it out of the device. This is a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to air-based cooling systems.

Another innovative approach to data center cooling is geothermal cooling, which taps into the earth’s natural heat to lower the ambient air temperature in a data center building. Similarly, solar cooling converts sunlight into energy that can be used to cool data center equipment. In addition to these eco-friendlier options, there are also smart technologies that use artificial intelligence (AI) to better monitor and manage cooling systems. For instance, Google was able to cut its cooling energy usage by 40% in 18 months using an AI program that optimized data center temperature controls.

The decision on which cooling methods to use relies on the amount of electricity consumed and what exactly is required. A tiny system, for instance, likely won’t demand the complexity that a huge company’s data hub does. Regardless, it’s best to consider every cooling choice for an information storage facility prior to picking one approach.

Rather than utilizing cooling methods that burn excess energy, selecting an effective data center cooling approach can extend the useful lifespan of information technology equipment. For instance, situating servers with substantial cooling needs in close proximity risks squandering power by transferring the warm air emitted from the front of one server to the rear of another. In place of this arrangement, segregating the most energy-ravenous servers into “hot” and “cold” walkways optimizes a data center’s cooling productivity.

3) Security

Information strongholds harbor delicate details and crucial functions, rendering them a choice mark for digital assaults. They likewise necessitate fortitude against energy disruptions, component breakdowns, acts of God, and divers dangers. The optimal approach to safeguard these indispensable assets is by amalgamating tangible and internet protections.

As information storage facilities progress, those in the field of technology must stay current with these advancements. For instance, cloud computing without the use of tangible components decreases the amount of area required to house information by removing the necessity for physical equipment. Moreover, the emergence of machine intelligence in information storage facilities can aid in improving productivity and effectiveness by identifying issues and forecasting malfunctions.

Irrespective of its classification, every data hub necessitates advanced digital defenses to safeguard the intelligence they possess from online assaults. This encompasses gateways, directing devices, mainframes, and storage mechanisms. Furthermore, it is crucial to have admission regulation applications to constrain what each worker can accomplish within the data hub.

In addition to these technical tools, it’s crucial to train employees on the importance of security and how to identify potential threats. This can be done through security awareness training and creating a culture of security throughout the company.

Data centers are some of the most energy-consuming facilities, so it’s essential to have a reliable cooling system in place. In many cases, AI programs can improve the energy efficiency of a data center by using predictive analytics to identify areas of concern. Additionally, these programs can be used to monitor the health of each system and determine when it’s time to repair or replace components.

Another important aspect of data center security is the use of video surveillance to monitor access to data centers and server rooms. This can be done through a traditional CCTV system or by deploying more advanced facial recognition technology. It’s also a good idea to follow a zero-trust architecture and have strict access controls for all systems, terminals, and workloads. This can slow down hackers and provide security teams with more time to detect and respond to attacks.

4) Networking

Data centers need sophisticated networking to link what’s inside and outside. This networking should offer dependable links with big capacity and quick speeds. It’s got to also get bigger to suit future needs. Plus, it must be shielded from natural disasters like quakes and huge sea waves.

Uninterrupted energy sources, secondary power generators, and supplementary infrastructure guarantee that a data center’s networks have numerous backup layers to enable ongoing operations and safeguard against issues from catastrophes, utility disruptions, or equipment defects. This configuration is achieved through uninterruptible power supplies, emergency generators, and other auxiliary mechanisms encompassing cooling equipment; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning components; and fire containment systems. The data center ought to be situated in a geographically separated region to circumvent the likelihood of critical trade information loss from a natural disaster that could impact communication lines.

As enterprises move to more agile IT and shift workloads to multi-cloud environments, they need an architecture that supports application elasticity and mobility. This is enabled by virtualization and software-defined networking that allows administrators to deploy resources across common pools and reclaim them when they’re no longer needed.

The massive data sets coming into and out of a data center need to be transported as cost-efficiently as possible. This requires advanced interconnect technologies with a low cost per bit and the ability to scale easily. For example, routers are moving from 100GbE to faster 400GbE services and advances in coherent optics such as Ciena’s WaveLogicTM 5 allow data to be moved over greater distances with higher performance.

Another challenge is managing the complexity of data center infrastructures to achieve agility and efficiency. It is important to have tools that monitor the performance of infrastructure and equipment to detect problems and take corrective actions. To simplify this task, IT leaders should invest in a data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solution that helps reduce operational costs and increase staff efficiency. This tool should be able to provide data-driven analysis and visualization of IT assets within a data center and across hybrid environments. It should also be able to help ensure compliance with industry regulations such as PCI DSS, SOX, and HIPAA.

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