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What is a Data Center?

- February 24, 2007 - 6 Comments

This is a question I keep getting again and again. Everyone seems to have a different answer and I would be really interested to see what other answers there are out there. Let’s take this as one cut at a definition and please feel free to offer other options or cuts at it- “A Data Center is where an organization runs its mission critical applications.”

I have heard definitions based on power draw, ones based on raised floor, ones based on the presence of storage area networks, etc. These usually seem to come from people who are responsible for those particular technology silos. What I like about the above is it allows an organization of any size to define its own DC large or small that is relevant to them. From there they can apply the set of technologies as necessary to solve the business problems they have: whether operational cost reductions, organizational alignment, capital asset utilization, power and cooling reduction, increasing or more efficiently using compute capacity, etc. What other definitions should we use? Are there other ones out there that are relevant? dg

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  1. Been looking forward to this. Definitely nice to see something that breaks the mold of the typical Orc/Elf/Dwarf/Human fare that saturates multiplayer gaming today. Now all we need is to shake up the classes a little bit and break away from the Warrior/Priest/Sorcerer that exists in every game. The don’t need to change the behavior, just infuse make up a different title to define the classes since that’s all that it takes. I was thinking that Tera would do this since their world is detached from our reality and all other MMO worlds. I have been reading the lore stories on their site which is also pretty cool.

  2. I think the definitions is missing two comoponents: Size and supporting infrastructure.A closet with an iSeries sitting in it does not qualify as a data center, even if it is running Bob's Auto Parts"" mission critical systems.Also, you don't have mission critical applications without power, cooling, networking and phsyical infrastructure. These are not by-products, they are supporting components."

  3. Rolf- I think you raise a fair point with, Sounds like a server hall to me."" In many ways that certainly is the evolution to what people are branding as 'Data Centers' nowadays.I think the genesis started with the mainframe and the DC was really a building or almost a fortress we built to protect the mainframe since it was/is quite a critical asset. Client Server and Dirstributed Computing architectures emerged and new things started appearing in the data center - funny 1RU and now blade-chassis servers. :)Structurally though the 'server hall' before had to deal with 2000-3000 watts per rack. Data Centers today are being asked to deal with 10-30kwh per rack. So physical engineering and HVAC and power become major problems.Storage has decoupled from the host- the good ol' days when I used to rack up Compaq ProLiant 7000s and try to get 3-4 in a rack at 1.5kwh per rack are gone - I put 40-42 servers per rack and remote boot them off the SAN. So I have to figure out where I can house tera to peta bytes of online storage.The network itself also evolved to having multiple transport types each optimized on differing vectors- FibreChannel for storage, Infiniband for low-latency cluster computing, and Ethernet for general purpose data networking.I think the taxonomy more than anything indicates and pays homage to the increased complexities that we are all dealing with in this environment. To the points made earlier on SLAs they are the metric by which we are measured. I'll have to write another note on those... had a fun trip and many meetings with large financial customers in New York last week where I learned a lot about SLAs in the Data Center that I never new...dg"

  4. Sounds like server hall to me. Just a new buzz-word. Even though we build them more sophisticated these

  5. Datacenter is where applications with SLA are hosted. This SLA is the main driver for any differentiation for datacenter infrastructure vis-a-vis LOB infrastructure. As the underlying infrastructure is increasingly becoming distributed, the applications themselves are being refactored into invokable services a.k.a SOA. If an application does not have an SLA, it mostly is not found in the datacenter.

  6. How about...A datacenter is a central location where data is not only stored, but used in a distributed manner, in a way that is meaningful for the business.""Rather than defining a datacenter, it sounds like I just elaborated on what ""mission critical"" means.The power draw, raised flooring, environmentals, etc, are just by-products required to maintain the datacenter, but does not define it.Just my two pennies."