In essence, a data centre is a key physical facility used to house companies’ vital data and computer systems. A data centre enables organisations to centralise IT operations and equipment so that data and applications can be stored, processed and disseminated in one secure place. Adopting these measures ensure business continuity.

Controlling data centres is mission-critical

In previous years, data centres were highly physicalised environments. Yet, with the advent of cloud technology, some data centres have evolved from onsite physical servers to virtualised systems that support and enable cloud technology. These data centres are designed to facilitate cross-communication between public and private clouds.

Whether it is an on-premises or cloud data centre, data centres are essential to the way data is disseminated from one place to another. Such is their demand and importance, there are reportedly seven million data centres around the world.

What is the role of a data centre?

Data centres are business-critical assets that are integral to an organisation’s function. The role of a data centre includes:

  • To store, manage, back-up and recover data
  • To support business and productivity applications such as email and other software
  • To process high-volume business transactions
  • Artificial Intelligence and Big Data

What are the core elements of a data centre?

Data centres include a myriad of components such as routers, switches, firewalls, servers and storage systems. Network infrastructure connects servers (physical and virtual), data centre services, storage and external connectivity to end-user locations. Storage infrastructure is used to hold vast quantities of data. Computing resources provide the processing, local storage and network connectivity that are needed to ensure applications work.

To ensure the efficiency and performance of the components, data centres require a significant level of infrastructure including sensors, ventilation, cooling systems, fire suppression, backup generators and connections to external networks.

How do they operate?

Data centre services are employed to assure the integrity of a centre’s components. Network security appliances can safeguard a data centre by offering firewall protection. Other solutions are also adopted to ensure the components perform as required.

How is a data centre designed?

Different data centres exist for different types of needs. Businesses can choose to build and operate their own centre; have a leased data centre managed on behalf of a third party; rent a ‘colocation’ data centre with other companies off company premises; or have an off-premises cloud data centre hosted by a provider such as IBM cloud.

Due to the nature of technology, data and applications are no longer stored in one place but exist in multiple, secure environments. The demand for data centres has therefore evolved to meet these needs – and will continue to do so for as long as technology develops.
Whilst data centre design and needs vary, the big commonality is data centre security. It’s fundamental that data centres are secure, in order to avoid cyberattacks and ensure business-critical data and applications are not compromised.

The vast equipment in a data centre must also be monitored and protected from any issues that may cause the centre to not operate. Conditions must be kept at optimum level for temperature and humidity with continuous airflow to keep the equipment cool. There must also be precautions made for monitoring emergency conditions such as overheating, fire and water leaks.

The European family of standards EN50600 were published in 2014 and provide comprehensive best practice for data centre design including power, cooling, telecommunications and security. They also provide recommendations for operations and sustainability. These standards are the authority on data centre design alongside the newest ISO international standards.