Data Center Design 101: Everything You Need to Know

By: Kal Rana on June 15, 2020

While data centers have become an important part of modern networking infrastructure, it’s important to remember that not all data centers were created equal. Some facilities are cutting-edge powerhouses of connectivity, while others struggle to deliver more than 99% service uptime (which is actually quite poor). That’s because data center design matters. A poorly designed or outdated facility simply cannot meet the needs of today’s companies.

When selecting a colocation data center or considering building a new private facility, there are several data center design trends that need to be taken into consideration.

5 Modern Data Center Design Trends

1. Redundancy

Uptime is perhaps the most important aspect of any type of data center. If a facility can’t deliver reliable power and connectivity to the network systems hosted there, it probably won’t be in business for very long. Modern colocation data centers use a combination of backup generators to provide the bulk of their backup power needs, but they also deploy uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) that deliver battery power to essential systems in the event of an outage. The purpose of UPS backups is to keep power flowing until the generators (which are usually diesel-powered) kick on. Data center infrastructure uses a specific terminology to indicate how much redundancy a facility has available (N, N+1, 2N, and 2N+1).

2. Power and Cooling Efficiency

Managing power and cooling efficiency has long been the greatest challenge facing most data centers. That’s because the massive energy demands of these facilities can grow very quickly, leading to spiraling costs and concerns over their environmental impact. Fortunately, modern data centers have greatly increased their energy efficiency, with total global power consumption expected to grow only four percent through 2020 (a huge improvement on the 90 percent annual increases of the early 2000s). Much of those gains are the result of innovations in cooling technology, which is slowly transitioning away from traditional air conditioning units to much more sophisticated liquid cooling techniques.

3. Structured Cabling

Another innovative development in data center design has to do with the physical components of networking. The average data center uses a great deal of copper and fiber optic cabling to connect the hardware on the data floor. While this often brings to mind images of tangled masses of cabling spilling out from the back of a server cabinet, today’s facilities implement structured cabling strategies to ensure that everything stays orderly and easy to manage. Not only does structured cabling make installations easier, it also helps to improve cooling efficiency by allowing air to flow more freely throughout the facility.

4. High-Density Deployments

While cooling infrastructure may be the driving force behind data center power consumption, the increasing power density of server cabinets is also a key factor. Power density is an important metric for calculating a data center’s actual computing performance. As processors have become smaller and more powerful over the years, so too has the equipment being slotted into server cabinets. The density of the average server rack has therefore increased significantly. There was a time when a cabinet drawing anything more than 5kW was considered a high-density rack, but today’s average cabinet usually falls somewhere between 7-10kW, with high-performance cabinets featuring densities as high as 30-40kW. As processing-intensive big data workloads continue to become more widespread, high-density capacity has evolved into a “must-have” feature for data center infrastructure.

5. Physical and Logical Security

Today’s data centers deploy a tremendously sophisticated array of security technologies to protect essential IT assets from unauthorized access. From traditional security measures like fencing and CCTV monitoring to more advanced features like biometric scanning, data centers make it easier than ever for organizations to manage who can access their data and IT infrastructure. The most effective security strategies incorporate physical systems with logical security protocols (like multi-factor authentication).

Why Intelligent Monitoring is an Essential Part of Your Data Center Design

But all of this state-of-the-art infrastructure doesn’t do an organization much good if they don’t have the tools for managing it effectively. Many colocation data centers, for example, go to great lengths to improve their energy efficiency and security protocols, but fail to provide their customers any way to monitor or utilize that infrastructure. Effective data center design, then, needs to deliver both visibility and control if it’s to provide any meaningful benefit to customers.

Intelligent monitoring software is one of the most exciting developments in data center design because it has the potential to solve this problem. While there has long been a push toward automation and sophisticated monitoring tools that provide real-time performance data, those platforms have usually remained exclusively under the control of data center personnel. Without access to data pertaining to power usage and connectivity, colocation customers had difficulty knowing whether or not they were getting any benefit from data center design innovations.

That’s why vXchnge developed the in\site intelligent monitoring platform and provided every colocation customer access to the information it gathers. Thanks to in\site, it’s possible to see exactly how much power colocated assets are using over time and where bandwidth spikes are most likely to occur. The platform also features asset tracking capabilities thanks to RFID technology, while allows colocation customers to see where their servers and other equipment are located at any time.

This unprecedented level of control and visibility makes it easier for organizations to make decisions about their IT infrastructure. Rather than guessing how any changes will impact their power requirements, they can simply call up a report using in\site. Alerts and notifications can be set up to monitor assets over time. Should anything go wrong, such as a server going down in the middle of the night, in\site provides instant access to remote hands services to issue and track an IT support ticket. The platform also provides instant access to security compliance reports, completely eliminating the traditional hassle of requesting a report from a vendor and waiting days or even weeks to receive it.

At vXchnge, we know that transparency and control are essential to leveraging the capabilities of modern data center design. That’s why we provide every one of our colocation customers access to the in\site platform at no additional cost. To learn more about how in\site can transform your IT infrastructure, contact one of our colocation experts today and request a hands-on demo.

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