6 Types of Data Centers: Learn the Differences

Posted by Thane Moore on April 5, 2023

Each data center is unique and designed to meet the specific requirements of the company that owns and operates it. Data centers also have different characteristics based on the facility, the type of IT equipment, the power and cooling infrastructure, and many other factors.

That said, most data centers fall into one of six categories. Here’s a look at the 6 major data center types.

Before exploring the nuance among the different types of data centers, it’s important to understand their basic purpose. Check out our blog to learn what data centers are and how they work

1. Enterprise Data Centers

Enterprise data centers are owned and operated by one company and support anywhere from a handful of servers to a few thousand. They are typically located within the company’s headquarters, although they may be off-premises for business continuity or cost-efficiency purposes.

Although experts have predicted the death of the enterprise data center for years, many organizations still own and operate their own facilities. In fact, about half of all workloads are hosted in enterprise data centers, according to the Uptime Institute. Organizations maintain their own data centers if they have unique applications or networking requirements or need the control of a privately owned facility.

2. Colocation Data Centers

While enterprise data centers are designed for one company, colocation data centers offer space, power, cooling, and network connectivity to multiple customers. Larger colocation data centers may support thousands of customers and offer a wide range of services. 

Colocation data centers allow customers to host their own IT equipment without the overhead of operating their own facility. Best-in-class colocation data centers have redundant power and cooling, connections to multiple network providers, and high physical and logical security levels, making them more resilient than the typical enterprise data center.

3. Hyperscale Data Centers

Size and scale are what differentiate hyperscale data centers from the other types. They are massive facilities, with many being over a million square feet in size and capable of holding tens of thousands of servers, switches, server racks, etc. They are carefully designed to maximize energy efficiency and streamline maintenance to keep operational costs down and ensure the highest levels of availability. Energy efficiency is incredibly important because it’s not uncommon for these facilities to use as much power as 70,000 US homes (100MW).

Some hyperscale data centers are also colocation facilities, while others are owned by single enterprises for their own purposes. In either case, this type of data center allows for rapid scalability, enabling operators to add compute and storage capacity to meet increasing demand. That’s why nearly all cloud providers utilize hyperscale data centers. The role of the data center in cloud computing is massive. Hyperscale data centers are the backbone of cloud computing.

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4. Micro Data Centers

At the other end of the spectrum is a micro data center. Size delineates micro data centers from the other types. Micro data centers are simply micro versions of data centers that house the same types of IT equipment and infrastructure as a larger facility (networking, storage, compute). They typically come in the form factor of a single traditional server rack. Browse Enconnex micro data centers for sale for examples.

Micro data center cabinets incorporate conditioned power and cooling. Organizations simply install the IT equipment and roll the cabinet in place for plug-and-play simplicity. Some also have built-in security and monitoring capabilities.

They are easily movable compared to their enterprise counterparts and can be installed in virtually any environment, from a retail store to a warehouse to a remote location in the field. There are use cases in a wide range of industries, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and education.

5. Edge Data Centers

Location delineates edge data centers from the other types. Edge data centers are located at the network edge — far away from a central “hub” such as an enterprise data center or the cloud. Organizations can reduce latency and enhance the employee and customer experience by implementing compute and storage capacity nearer to users. Edge computing is also ideal for IoT applications, allowing organizations to process data closer to where it’s captured by IoT devices. Some common edge computing use cases are self-driving cars and video conferencing technology. Industry 4.0 is well underway, and more data is being produced than ever before. Edge computing and edge data centers are essential to ensuring that data is as actionable as possible.

This type of data center is generally small and may be a micro data center (commonly referred to as an edge micro data center) or containerized data center (which we will cover below). Monitoring capabilities are especially important because IT teams typically operate the edge data center remotely.

6. Modular Data Centers

Ease of scalability is what delineates modular data centers from the other types. Modular data centers are designed using a system of open architecture components that can fit together in various ways. These systems are flexible and scalable, with multiple options that enable customization. Installation is relatively fast and easy, and generally costs less than a traditional data center. Energy-efficiency features are typically built into the components. Modular data centers are also designed to maximize the use of space and simplify ongoing management.

Containerized data centers are a specific subset of the modular data center category. They are modular data centers that are prefabricated by the manufacturer inside a standard shipping container. They include all the data center infrastructure necessary to support operations and can be shipped virtually anywhere. These units offer optimal mobility and are often used for edge computing applications as well.


Enconnex offers infrastructure solutions for all types of data centers. We’re your one-stop source for racks and cabinets, cabling and power cords, PDUs, aisle containment, micro data center solutions, and more. If you want to build, update or upgrade a data center, contact our specialists for expert advice and browse our high-quality IT and data center products for sale today.

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Posted by Thane Moore on April 5, 2023

Thane Moore is the Senior Director of Sales Operations & Logistics for Enconnex and has 20 years of experience in the IT infrastructure manufacturing space working for companies such as Emerson and Vertiv.

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