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What is a Data Center?

From data storage, communication, and running an application to providing services and performing daily business functions, every organization requires a centralized facility for all its functions. Plus, the need for managing data efficiently is increasing day by day, and according to research, the data storage volume is going to triple in size to the current situation. 

With the increasing need for a centralized facility and huge numbers of data being processed on a daily basis, data centers play a pivotal role in facilitating organizations to store their critical information and run large-scale applications. 

It is a physical facility that helps facilitate an organization’s IT workflow and hardware requirements for data storage and application running. To give you a detailed insight into data centers, we are going to talk about data centers and all the necessary information associated with them in this article today.

So without wasting any time, let dive right in; 

What is a Data Center?

A data center can be defined as a centralized facility that houses high-performance servers, complex networks, and storage systems to enable organizations to offer shared access to data and applications. At its simplest, a data center is a place with networking and computing infrastructure to allow an organization to process and store data and deliver shared applications. 

Since most businesses house their application, data, and other vital assets in a data center, it has become imperative for this centralized facility to offer optimum reliability, security, and availability. A data center serves as the backbone of every organization or government agency, and every entity either has its own data center or access to third-party facilities. 

The modern infrastructure of data centers has evolved in a lot of ways as they transformed from traditional on-premises physical servers to virtualized infrastructure to facilitate applications and workloads across multi-cloud environments. 

The growth of cloud computing has made data centers upgrade their operation by leveraging automation, virtualization, artificial intelligence, and other technologies. The use of modern technologies enhances availability, efficiency, scalability, and security.

The Role of the Data Center

In today’s time, data centers serve as an integral aspect of modern businesses that help them handle high-volume data and traffic with minimal interruption. Basically, it is designed to enable enterprises to support their application and maintain IT infrastructure by using specialized hardware and software. 

They serve as critical assets for every organization as they offer the necessary storage, computing, and networking technologies. The data center is not only meant for data storage and application support but also to provide services like a private cloud for CRM and ERP, data backup & recovery, e-commerce data transactions, online gaming, and email support. 

This centralized facility also plays a big role in helping organizations with big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Previously, data centers were either on-premises or privately owned. 

However, the arrival of the cloud has made a huge shift and created third-party data centers, enabling organizations to access apps, workloads, and other resources hosted remotely. Even though there are many third-party data centers in the industry, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services are the most popular third-party data centers. 

The third-party data centers have made changes in how organizations operate as it enables them to scale IT resources efficiently, avoid upfront investment for building, and pay according to resource usage. Based on a recent report, there are more than 7 million data centers in the world, and the number is expected to grow significantly within a decade.

Types of Data Centers

Types of Data Centers

Not every data center worldwide is similar, as there are different types of data centers worldwide that have unique sets of capabilities and features. 

Currently, data centers are not only private or on-premises, but there are new kinds of data centers where applications, workloads, and networks are virtualized. Here are some common types of data centers utilized by businesses:

Enterprise Data Centers

This type of data center serves as one of the largest facilities that are typically constructed, maintained, and used by a single organization. It is a common choice for most tech giants where the data centers are mostly located in organization’s site having optimum power, security, and connectivity.

Colocation Data Centers

It is a widely popular off-premises physical facility that offers shared storage, services, and resources to different organizations at a monthly/yearly subscription cost. The service provider rents out space and resources to organizations while maintaining the data center infrastructure by themselves. 

Moreover, they are also tasked with installing and managing servers, hardware and firewalls of the data center. It is popular for small to midsize organizations who don’t want to make a huge investment for their own data center.

Cloud Data Centers

Cloud data centers are currently the most demanded data center type in the world, and they are mostly operated by public or third-party cloud service providers. 

It is an off-premises data center type that is based on an infrastructure-as-a-service model to offer virtualized computing services and resources to organizations over the internet. It not only allows customers to access resources but also rent specific services for their business operation.

Managed Service Data Centers

It is a specialized data center where third-party providers offer computing, storage, resources, and other services through a leasing model for IT operations. 

It is usually managed, operated, and monitored by a third-party service provider, eliminating the need for purchasing infrastructure and equipment by organizations. This data center type is either partly managed or entirely operated by a single entity.

Edge Data Centers

It is a compact data center that is located closer to the users renting it and provides super-fast and efficient access to resources and services. 

It helps organizations tackle latency issues and communication delays that ultimately boost customer experience and service delivery. Usually these data centers are small and compact which are built close to the end-user to ensure low latency connection.

Modular Data Centers

Modular data centers are specialized and portable data center types that are installed in remote locations with limited infrastructure. These data centers usually come as plug ‘n play data center infrastructure integrated with servers, storage, cooling system, stabilizer, networking, hardware, and UPS. 

They are usually utilized by end-users in building sites or sites requiring recovery or disaster management. It is often used by education institutes for developing their IT infrastructure for smart classrooms.

Hyperscale Centers

It is designed to facilitate hyperscale computing for organizations requiring cloud computing and big data storage. This data center type usually serves large-scale cloud providers with robust and scalable applications and storage services to cater to end customers. 

They are usually business data centers that help reduce administrative challenges and the cost of cooling. It differs from enterprise data centers as it utilizes a high-fiber network across the facilities. This data center type requires 10,000 sq ft floor space with 5000 servers and 500 cabinets.

Core Components of a Data Center

Core Components of a Data Center

Data centers throughout the world are mostly made up of three primary components: storage, network, and computing. However, these components aren’t the only ones that define architecture, as there are many other components. 

The requirements of components vary from infrastructure to infrastructure, but the primary components remain the same. Here are the core components that make up a data center: 


Servers serve as the heart of a data center that houses all the required processes, networking and memory power required for running an application or offering services to end users. It usually comes with high-end hardware that includes server-grade processes and powerful RAM that are suitable to cater to artificial intelligence and machine learning requirements.


Along with computing, data storage serves as an important part of a data center as it enables the organization to store a large volume of data. It hosts a huge amount of data for their own purpose and to cater to the needs of customers. Many data centers nowadays use non-volatile storage media to decrease access time and cost of storage.


The network of data centers plays a significant role in the smooth operation of the data center. The network component usually includes routers, firewalls, cables, and switches that help connect the server to the internet or other mediums. 

When networks are properly configured and managed, it has the capability to cater to large volumes of data without any issues. On-premises networks often use software-defined networking and hyperscale network security to introduce superior agility and scalability. 

A network in a data center is composed of core switches that make connections with the internet and a middle aggregate layer, enabling connection between core layer and access layer.

The additional components that also add up to the core component are: 


The facility serves as the physical location with optimum power supply and security control to house a data center along with its equipment. Basically, it is the usable space with designated square footage used to build a data center. 

These spaces are designed with optimization so that all the equipment stays under a specific temperature, and maximum space is utilized during building. 

Operational Staff

These employees are important for any data center as they maintain IT and infrastructure equipment and also oversee the overall operation. These personnel play a crucial role as they make sure everything is running smoothly inside the facility. 

Support Infrastructure

Support infrastructure are those equipment that ensure the server has the highest achievable uptime and are always in operating state. Usually, a data center tries to maintain availability between 99.671% to 99.995%. 

The major components that encompass support infrastructure include UPSes, power distribution systems, backup generators, electrical switching, ventilation and cooling systems, and network connectivity. 

Data centers usually utilize computer room air conditioners and heating, ventilation & air conditioning for their cooling setup. The video surveillance system and biometrics are also part of the support infrastructure that takes care of the security of the facility.

Data Center Tiers

According to The Uptime Institute, data centers are segregated into four tiers based on their performance, reliability, and efficiency. These tiers are considered to be the industry standard for defining the performance of a data center. Here are the four tiers of the data center: 

Tier 1

A tier 1 data center is the most basic type that operates the base level to support IT operation of an organization. The tier 1 data center usually comes with basic redundancy capacity components like UPS, round-clock cooling system, and engine generator. 

It guarantees a 99.671% uptime as it offers limited protection against outages and a downtime of 28.8hours per year. This type of facility has to be completely shut down for maintenance and repair purposes. 

Tier 2

Unlike tier 1, tier 2 data centers come equipped with an additional redundant power and cooling subsystem that offers enhanced protection against physical events. 

Usually, they equip generators, energy storage devices, pumps, and fuel tanks to minimize disruption impact and improve maintenance. As a result, it provides an uptime of 99.741% with a yearly downtime of 22 hours. 

Tier 3

The tier 3 data center can be designated as concurrently maintainable and doesn’t require shutdown whenever any equipment needs to be maintained or requires replacement. Concurrent maintainability is facilitated by the addition of redundant components and disruption that also acts as a major differentiator from others. 

Since it is mostly equipped, it is able to provide protection against a varied type of physical events. Importantly, it offers 99.982% uptime, partial fault tolerance with 72 hours of power outage protection, and 1.6 hours of yearly downtime, which is why it is widely preferred by large-scale organizations. 

Tier 4

Tier 4 is a fully fault-tolerant data center that guarantees a 99.995% uptime and a yearly downtime of 26.3 minutes. These data centers are suitable for enterprises because they offer a 2N + 1 fully redundant infrastructure and 96 hours of power outage protection. 

Unlike other tiers, the tier 4 data center features a completely isolated and independent system that helps create a redundant capacity component and distribution path. 

Due to this, any kind of disruption, including physical, doesn’t affect the business operation in tier 4 data centers. Moreover, the equipment is designed with fault tolerance and ensures 24/7 cooling to keep the servers running around the clock.

How Data Centers Operate

Data centers are the backbone of any organization as they centralize IT operations and equipment for storing data, offering services, and application workflow. Not only do they provide enterprises with the flexibility to store and process data, but they also help maintain application performance. 

The operation of a data center entirely depends upon the successful execution of data center operations, which contain processes and systems. In general, data centers have the capability to handle a high volume of traffic to ensure optimum application performance and smooth working data-intensive services. 

For optimum operation, a data center requires the support of a vast infrastructure, which not only includes hardware and software but also power generators, cooling systems, external networks, and security equipment. 

Besides, a data center also needs to take care of the network resources, monitor power and cooling systems, and ensure optimum data security. 

The data center operation doesn’t only include real servers but also virtual servers that are linked through networking and communication equipment. The servers present in data centers help process the data, while software tools help cluster the computer and segregate the workload.

To maintain the operation, the data center also utilizes: 

Network Security Appliances: The network security appliances usually contain firewalls and intrusion protection that help in safeguarding the data center from any kind of event. 

Application Delivery Assurance: A data center utilizes specialized mechanisms that provide application resiliency and availability through load balancing automated failover. 

Physical Safety Measures: To maintain operation, a data center also has to take care of the physical safety measures. It employs continuous surveillance, multi-factor identification, biometric scanning, metal detectors, and other measures to ensure the highest security. 

Power Backup: For uninterrupted operation, a dater centers operate using a UPS and generators that helps in powering the system during disruption. Generators keep running the equipment while the UPS system ensures redundancy and ensures all the modules keep on running even during blackout. 

CMMS: A data center also requires the support of a computerized maintenance management system that helps in managing, monitoring and boosting the maintenance. 

Through this program, a data center tracks the maintenance work and the overall cost. Using the program, most organizations lower maintenance costs and enhance internal efficiency.  

Artificial Intelligence: Nowadays, artificial intelligence has become a part of many modern data centers by automating the monitoring of energy distribution, server traffic, cyber threats and cooling capacity. It can also automatically modify efficiency, identify possible faults, and balance resource usage to ensure maximum efficiency.

How CloudDefense.AI can Help?

CloudDefense.AI, being a leading agentless CNAPP platform, helps data centers take care of their security measures. Partnering with CloudDefense.AI will help you maintain optimum application performance and data efficiency while ensuring the highest possible security of all crucial information. 

A DC network requires the incorporation of firewalls, access control, data protection, vulnerability management, Web App Security, threat detections, and other measures to protect your stored information. CloudDefense.AI supplies the best possible security solutions that a data center needs to keep its data safe from unauthorized access. 

A huge advantage of partnering with CloudDefense.AI is that it offers a highly scalable security solution that can cope with the increasing requirements of the data center. 

This platform makes use of advanced AI and ML algorithms to identify threats in real time and prevent security gaps that might enable attackers to infiltrate the security system. To learn more, you can schedule a free demo to get a detailed overview.

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Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, currently co-founds CloudDefense.AI, a cybersecurity solution with a mission to secure your business by rapidly identifying and removing critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code. With a background in Amazon, Microsoft, and VMWare, they contributed to various software and security roles.
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