Exploring the Components of a Data Center

Posted by Robert Faulkner on August 10, 2023

Data centers are complex, but they are easier to understand when broken down into their component parts. At the most basic level, every data center comprises compute, storage, and networking equipment supported by racks and cabinets, cooling systems, power systems, and other physical infrastructure elements. Data centers must also have physical and logical security to protect equipment and data from damage, loss, or attack.

In previous articles, we’ve explained what data centers are and how they work, explored the different types of data centers, and even touched on their design and layout. In this entry, we’ll dive into the core components of a data center to get a better understanding of what makes them tick.

Computing Equipment

Servers provide compute functionality to the data center, using processors and memory to run applications. Every data center has some physical servers, each of which may support multiple virtual servers or containerized applications. Servers that support advanced applications such as artificial intelligence may have specialized processors capable of handling the workload.

Storage Equipment

Storage equipment includes physical hardware and software that stores applications and data processed in the data center. It also includes storage media used for data backup and archival. Various types of media, including hard-disk drives, solid-state drives, and tape, may be utilized depending on the application. Storage may also be virtualized so that multiple devices appear as one large pool of capacity.

Networking Equipment

A wide range of networking gear is used in the data center, including routers, switches, bridges, gateways, and firewalls. The network infrastructure also includes physical network cabling, which may be copper or optical fiber. The network moves data between servers and storage within the data center and connects the data center with the outside world.

Data Center Infrastructure

The physical data center infrastructure is critically important to the operation and management of the facility. Without the right supporting systems, the IT equipment will be unable to deliver the desired performance, availability, and security. The design of the underlying infrastructure depends in part on the standards set by the Uptime Institute for the various data center tiers. The tiers correspond to the amount of uptime the facility is expected to deliver.

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Racks and Cabinets

IT equipment is installed in racks and cabinets, which serve as the “bones” of the data center. Racks include various components that facilitate access to and management of the equipment.

Power Systems

The power infrastructure includes rackmount and floor-mounted power distribution units (PDUs), uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), power panels, busways, and other components. Together, these power systems transfer power from the main supply to the IT equipment and provide backup power if the main supply fails. They must supply enough power to support the equipment demands and have redundancy appropriate to the data center tier.

Cooling Systems

Data center cooling systems are constantly evolving. Traditionally, data centers have used computer room conditioning (CRAC) and computer room air handler (CRAH) units to keep the facility at the proper temperature to prevent IT equipment from overheating. Today, data centers may use alternative types of cooling, such as liquid cooling. In-row and in-rack cooling systems provide more focused cooling that can lower costs and prevent hotspots. Aisle containment systems help prevent the mixing of chilled supply air and hot exhaust air.

Physical Security and Safety

Data centers typically have multiple levels of physical security, such as badge entry, biometric scanners, automatic door locks, and video surveillance. Racks and cabinets may also have locks. Fire suppression systems help reduce the risk of damage to the IT equipment in a fire.

Enconnex: Your Data Center Infrastructure Experts

As a premier data center and IT infrastructure product manufacturer, the experts at Enconnex can help you select the right solution for your infrastructure. It all starts with racks and cabinets — for example, our new InfiniRack cabinet is highly customizable to adapt to any data center design. We also offer real device testing enclosures, RF/EMI shielded solutions, rack accessories, network cabling solutions, PDUs, aisle containment systems, and more. Contact one of our specialists to discuss your needs.

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Posted by Robert Faulkner on August 10, 2023

Robert Faulkner is the Vice President of Engineering and Operations at Enconnex. He comes from a strong background in product management with over 20 years in the IT industry. He currently holds an MSME and CDCD certification. He earned his MS degree in Mechanical Engineering at University of Nevada, Reno.

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