A datacentre is an enclosed space or building that contains computers or servers used in the communication and storage of computer data. Generally the space contains lots of computers used by large corporations such as IBM, HP, retail outlets, large banks, governments, Microsoft, Google and Apple, as well as for the general public’s everyday online internet activity and email. The data must be accessible at all times and is in increasingly high demand, so this has a number of implications on the data storage facilities and requirements.
  • The power supply cannot go off or be switched off
  • The communication connections cannot be cut or interrupted
  • The space must be kept under high security
A further complication in this type of facility is that large computers generate alot of heat. However with the increase in temperature their performance can decrease or even stop altogether. The data storage rooms need to be kept cool with air conditioning and these systems for removing the heat must stay on at all times, another reason for the power supply to remain switched on continuously. Various datacentres (as defined by the Uptime Institute) treat these technical requirements differently but their end goal is always the same – to maintain the ‘uptime’.
Chris Fox - Convergence
Chris Fox Art Installation at Global Switch Datacentre

Power supply

Ideally a datacentre should have more than one power supply and preferably from different power stations. In the event the local power supply goes down, a back up generator (or redundant generator) must be in place and used to maintain the supply for the length of time that is necessary. One of the difficulties with generators is that, just like with cars, they sometimes do not start and so back up generators must also be provided. Another issue is that the generators do not start instantaneously. For the brief moment between the local power supply going down and the generator firing up, a universal power supply (UPS) must bridge the gap. The UPS are typically batteries that are kept charged at all times or may be more back-up generators that are always switched on.

Communications network

In the same way as for the power supply, the communication cables must be connected at all times so that if there is a problem with a line or even if several lines are cut, the data can be re-routed and the datacentre can continue working as normal. The many cables and their interconnecting links form a large communications network with numerous routes for the data to travel along.

High security

Obviously such a building needs strict security controls for access to the servers. This is achieved using a variety of detection and access control systems. In addition, datacentres need high performance fire detection and fire safety systems.

Other Datacentre requirements

A typical data room will contain racks of special shelving that hold the servers, sometimes in 19″ rack cabinets. These are placed in single rows that allow front and rear access. Usually a raised floor of easily removeable floor tiles creates a void for air to circulate as part of the air-conditioning system, and also provides space to run the cables underneath. Trays suspended from the ceiling are often used for running further cables throughout the data rooms.