Running a data center requires a lot of planning to ensure everything runs properly today and long into the future. Whether you are building a small data center for your company’s computer equipment, or you manage a cloud data center with hundreds of thousands of square feet of floor space, there are certain items that you absolutely must have. Here are five categories of data center equipment with several examples of items to help get you going.
Environmental Control Equipment
When running a lot of computer equipment in one place, you need to ensure things don’t get too warm. In addition, this type of equipment will run optimally when kept at very precise humidity levels. It isn’t enough to simply keep the facility air-conditioned; you need to be able to manage the environment as a whole using items such as:
- Environmental Monitors – Placing sensors throughout the facility to take temperature and humidity readings is critical for monitoring the environment and allowing your system to react.
- Airflow Plans – If you don’t plan how the air will flow through your facility, you will end up with ‘hot spots’ of drastically different temperatures, which could end up damaging equipment. There are many ways to manage airflow using fans and fan trays, air pressure, and much more.
- Humidifiers – Many people assume that any humidity in a data center is bad, but that’s not actually true. For most equipment, keeping the humidity level between 45% and 55% is ideal. This can be a challenge when using air conditioning units, which is precisely why humidifiers are necessary.
- Air Cooling – Of course, powerful air-cooling units are a must. These units can be traditional air conditioners, water coolers, or any number of other options. The important thing is ensuring the air-cooling units can keep the data center at the proper temperature at all times.
All data centers house various types of computer equipment including servers, routers, switches, telephone equipment, and much more. It’s not enough to simply place these items on a desk or shelf to operate. This is not only an inefficient use of space, but can also cause problems with cooling, can expose them to physical hazards, and result in reduced security.
Server racks are the ideal place to house computer equipment in any data center. In fact, server racks are the mental image most people have when they think about data centers. Most people have seen pictures of large data centers with several rows of server racks containing equipment and blinking lights. This is an accurate image of how data centers are able to safely house millions of dollars worth of computer equipment and allow it all to operate efficiently.
Redundant Power Sources
Equipment in a data center relies heavily on electricity. This starts with the servers, routers, switches, and other IT equipment, but it goes well beyond that. Air handling and cooling systems, security cameras, and just about everything else in a facility require electricity to run. Not only does it require a large amount of power, but that power must be very reliable. If there is even a brief interruption of power, all the equipment goes down. This then requires many hours of support to bring everything back online. In addition, power interruptions and spikes can damage the equipment, resulting in extensive downtime and costly repairs.
Most data centers today will have a two-layer system for redundant power. First, there is a large battery backup system (often called ‘uninterrupted power supply’). All the power flows through this battery backup so if the commercial power drops for even a fraction of a second, the batteries will continue to supply everything in the facility with a source of electricity.
These batteries are typically sufficient to power a data center for only a short time (5-20 minutes in most cases). When the commercial power is cut and the batteries begin supplying the facility with power, large generators will engage and begin to supply the power that is needed. In most facilities, this is in the form of large, diesel-powered generators. These generators can supply consistent power for as long as necessary, providing that the diesel fuel tanks can be resupplied.
Cable Management Supplies
Anyone who has worked in a data center without a well-thought-out cable management strategy knows what a mess cables make. Before adding any equipment to a data center, it is critical to have cable management equipment in place. This starts with simple items like zip ties that will hold cables in place. In addition, buying colored cables will help make it easier to identify different types of cables at a glance.
Within server racks, it is necessary to have proper cable management kits that will keep the cables properly organized. Guiding the cables either up to the top of the server rack, or down through the bottom, will make it easier to test and replace cables if they go bad, and also keeps them safer so there is a lower risk of an outage. A well-executed cable management plan in a data center is like a work of art and also dramatically improves the way the entire facility operates.
Computer & Network Equipment
The purpose of data centers is to house computer and network equipment, so it may seem odd to list this last. The fact is, however, that if you have the luxury of planning out a data center from the start, the computer and network equipment are the last items that need consideration. If you properly plan and install all the above-mentioned things, you will be able to add virtually all types of computers, switches, routers, servers, telco equipment, mainframes, and more without any trouble.
This type of equipment is also replaced more regularly according to the lifecycle management of each item. While air handling and cooling equipment, server racks, and other items can last for decades without a problem, the actual IT components typically get replaced every 3-5 years.
Whether you are helping to plan for a new facility, or you’re just looking to ensure an existing facility is set up correctly, it is important to think about every piece of data center equipment that is used. Data center management requires extensive planning to get everything right, but all this planning will be well worth the effort!