Know Your Data Center Types

The worldwide demand for data center capacity is exploding. Increasing adoption of cloud and technologies such as AI, IoT, and big data, as well as accelerating digitalization and the deployment of 5G, are driving exponential growth in the creation of new data.

Between 2018 and 2020, more new data was created than in all the years previous, combined. As that rate continues to increase, so too does the need for modern data centers. In fact, according to Arizton, "the global data center market size was valued at USD 215.8 billion in 2021 and is estimated to reach USD 288.3 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.95% during the forecast period."

More and more businesses rely on data centers to support their core business functions. Choosing the right data center type for your business is the first step in harnessing data to provide key services and drive more efficient, responsive, and cost-effective business operations.

The Data Center Defined

Data centers are mission critical facilities supporting global businesses. The term "data center" simply refers to the buildings that house the computing infrastructure used to run those businesses. Within these facilities are the servers, storage, and networking equipment that support essential applications and data. While secure, climate-controlled physical facilities contribute to high reliability, the data center infrastructure itself is optimized to handle high volumes of data and traffic with minimum latency.

Differentiating Between Data Center Types

While characteristics such as efficiency are valuable across all types of data centers, different models have emerged to serve various market requirements. Four of the most dominant models in today's computing environment are hyperscale, enterprise, colocation, cloud, and edge. Each has its own unique characteristics, strengths, and ideal use cases.

Hyperscale Data Centers

Designed to meet the requirements of cloud and big data storage, hyperscale data centers are huge high-density facilities. Often owned by the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, and others, modern facilities can occupy several million square feet across multiple buildings, with thousands of servers running on ultra-high-speed networks to deliver massive storage and processing power.

Hyperscale data centers bring their owners benefits including high availability, performance, and security, as well as tight control over every operational parameter. However, while the sheer size of such facilities can enable economies of scale, modern campus and facility construction projects can exceed the $1 billion mark. Because most hyperscale data centers are situated in rural areas to keep costs down, a key challenge in addition to initial capital outlay is to find, train, and retain the talent to keep operations up and running smoothly.

Enterprise Data Centers

Built on a much smaller scale, the enterprise data center is typically a private facility that is owned and operated by the company whose applications and data it supports. While the enterprise data center is often located on the corporate campus, the facility may be situated elsewhere to comply with legal requirements regarding geographic location, to improve performance through closer proximity to a key user segment, or for other reasons. Within the data center, different sections may be separated and dedicated to different areas of the business.

The primary benefit of the enterprise data center is that it can provide exceptional security and be adapted to meet a company's unique network requirements. However, the initial capital investment required to build the data center is very large, and ongoing labor and maintenance are significant over time.

Colocation Data Centers and Data Racks

Colocation data centers can be massive in size, and they provide flexible, scalable access to rack space and resources on a rental basis. Rather than maintain an enterprise data center or a much larger hyperscale data center, a business can instead become a tenant in a colocation data center.

While one company might rent out an entire data center, more often multiple companies will rent server rack space within a single colocation center — like having offices in the same office building. One colocation data center might house anywhere from 100 to thousands of businesses.

In addition to renting out rack space and network devices, the colocation facility provides storage space, power, cooling, physical security, and connectivity to customers' telecom and network service providers as appropriate. For its part, the business is responsible for servers, storage, maintaining firewalls, and so on.

This model gives businesses the flexibility to establish hardware in different geographic locations. They also can take advantage of interconnectivity — the cost-saving cloud exchange of data with other tenants, such as network service providers, cloud service providers, and software as a service (SaaS) providers. The rental model also provides businesses with scalability that allows for incremental and cost-effective growth.

Cloud Data Centers

The cloud data center effectively takes the on-premises data center virtual and opens the door to subscription-based use of compute resources. Organizations access their data and applications in the cloud, where a company such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), IBM Cloud, or another cloud provider owns and manages the hardware and cloud services.

In addition to enabling a pay-as-you-go model that works for businesses of every size, the cloud data center removes the need to worry about managing and maintaining physical facilities. Rather than spend time and talent on configuration and security, organizations can instead choose a cloud model and service that meets their requirement across key factors including cost, control, flexibility, scalability, and reliability.

A business needing greater security and control may choose to invest in a private cloud, where cloud computing resources are dedicated solely to that business. A public cloud offers a less-expensive alternative, providing non-exclusive access to cloud resources — servers, storage, and network devices over the public internet.

Edge Data Centers

Edge data centers are smaller data centers positioned close to the end user in order to minimize latency, increase throughput, and overcome intermittent connections. (The concept is taken from edge computing: Within a distributed IT architecture, client data is processed as close as possible to the originating source.) Numerous edge data centers may be located on the margins of a larger, geographically distributed network organized around one or more core data centers. This model enables exceptionally fast content delivery from the edge when needed, and it also allows for storage and processing of less critical or time-sensitive content at a core data center.

As consumers' reliance on digital services and connected (IoT) devices continues to grow, the proximity of edge data centers to end devices plays a vital role in reducing network traffic and operating costs while improving application performance. Businesses can use multiple edge data centers to establish mesh coverage, enable greater resilience, ensure high performance for edge applications, and provide consistent quality of experience for end users across their service areas.

Making Your Data Center a Reality

Build it yourself? Rent from a colocation data center? Move to the cloud? As IT leaders go about choosing the right type of data center for their operations, they can weigh the costs and benefits of each model against their business needs. Oftentimes, these factors clearly indicate which type of data center will suit the business best. When a hyperscale or enterprise data center is the right choice, the more difficult challenge lies in attracting, training, and retaining the right technical staff to build the data center operation quickly and expertly.

Large-scale data centers are complex, and they require a great deal of technical know-how through construction and operational phases. And right now, the competition to recruit qualified technical talent is fierce! Working with the right partner and the right talent, you can design, build, and run the data center your organization needs to stay competitive in a world driven by data and processing power.

Why Choose Black Box?

The Black Box Data Center Practice follows the "think global, act local" ethos, offering centralized solutions development and strategic planning while maintaining local project management and a local technical workforce for scalable delivery. As a global company with the ability to focus locally, Black Box excels in recruiting and training data center construction and technical staff.

Black Box services extend beyond the data center build and retrofit technical staffing. The company oversees day-to-day operations management, building automation, and in-building wireless networking through a single project management office to ensure consistency and quality around the globe.

Black Box Corporation is a unique, global data center services provider that supports customers throughout North America and worldwide. Black Box Data Center Practice services provide a holistic suite including hyperscale data center construction; co-location and large-scale deployments; Day 2 and RunOps support 24/7/365; and engineering and DAS solutions for leading manufacturers, social media, and search engine giants.

Learn more about how the Black Box Data Center Practice can help your organization take the next step.

Ready to move forward with your data center project?
Contact us at 855-324-9909 or email us at [email protected].

Hyperscale Data Center Enterprise Data Centers Cloud Data Centers Colocation Data Centers Data centers Edge computing
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