Data Center Architecture

Instructor: David Gloag
As the need of a business for information rises, so does the need to be able to process it. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the data center, what it is, what an architecture is, and the types available.

Our Need for Information

We live in an information-driven world. And with that comes an incessant need to collect and process it. We collect our banking transaction receipts so we can keep track of our finances, businesses keep track of buying information so they can tailor their marketing campaigns, and governments keep track of revenues and salaries so they can calculate the appropriate levels of tax. It is a constantly repeating cycle that looks to never end. So how do we cope with it? How do businesses and governments, in particular, get on top of it all? As you might expect, there are many possibilities. One that frequently comes to mind is the data center.

What is a Data Center?

A data center is a building that contains a large amount of computer hardware. This hardware consists of the following:

  • Central Processing Units (CPU's) - this is the brains of the data center, and is made up of literally thousands of processors that perform the work needed by the business.
  • Storage - this is static storage (storage that maintains its contents even after the power is removed) the system has at its disposal. This is typically a combination of hard disk drives (regular storage), solid state drives (high-speed storage), and tape drives (backup).
  • Communications - Depending on the age of the data center, this can consist of modems (telephone line communications), datasets (dedicated telephone line communications), traditional networking (what you're likely familiar with), and high-speed networking (fiber optics or similar).
  • Software - this is the programming that the business needs to operate. Generally, this falls into two categories. First, there is infrastructure software. Things like the tools used to manage the hardware, database management systems, email systems, and such. Second is application software. These are the programs that employees typically use on a day-to-day basis. Microsoft Office immediately comes to mind.

What is a Data Center Architecture?

A data center architecture is a description of the organization or arrangement of the computing resources (CPU's, storage, communications, and software) that a data center contains. As you might imagine, there are virtually an unlimited number of data center architectures possible. This is only limited by the number of each resource a business can afford to include. Still, we generally don't talk about data center architectures in terms of the possible variations, but rather, in terms of their basic use. The next section will look more closely at this.

What Types of Data Center Architectures Are Out There?

As mentioned, data center architectures are classified by their basic use. Taking variations out of play leaves us with only two that are unique; multi-tier, and clustered.

Multi-Tier Architecture Example

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