Data Center Architecture

With time, as the competitive market grows, businesses need to focus on the effectiveness of their IT operations. A smooth data flow can ensure a company’s services run efficiently, which can become beneficial for its position in the market.

To make it possible, a data center comes into play that makes IT operations, data storage, and transfer a breeze. However, for a data center to be optimal, its architecture must be well-considered.

An Overview Of Data Center Architecture

Data center architecture is the data center design or the physical layout incorporating equipment, technologies, and other data center resources included in a data center facility. In simple terms, data center architecture serves as a blueprint for a data center facility’s design and deployment.

This architectural layout serves as a starting point during the data center’s site construction phase to establish connections between servers and switches. It also provides guidelines on where and how the computing server and other data center resources like racks, storage networking, and more will be placed in the data center facility.

Other than deciding the physical placement of resources and equipment, the data center architecture creates a layout for the interconnection of the server and other data center resources. In addition, the data center architecture even decides the arrangement of the physical and logical security workflows within data centers.

The basis of data center network architecture is a layered approach that, over the years, has been tested and improved in various large-scale implementations of data centers globally. This multi-tier model foundation of a data center design assists the organization or enterprise in improving its scalability, overall performance, services, flexibility, maintenance, and resiliency.

Hence, a carefully planned data center architecture layout is necessary to support the smooth IT operations of any organization and ensure its services are available without a hitch for users.

Another significant benefit of a well-planned data center network architecture is that it can help a company deploy and support its new services quickly, giving them a competitive advantage.

So, to acquire a carefully considered data center architecture layout, special focus must be given to access layers uplink bandwidth, oversubscription, true server capacity, port density, and more.

A Brief Guide To Data Centers

Before we jump right into the details of data center architecture, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of what a data center is. This section of this in-depth article will also briefly discuss what constitutes the data center infrastructure components and technologies and what vital role an enterprise data center facility has.

In its simplest form in the world of Information Technology (IT), a data center is a physical facility, a designated space, or multiple private locations within an organization’s building where its entire data resides.

This data center facility primarily houses the company’s or organization’s computer systems and equipment along with related components like the telecommunication network and storage systems.

The physical facility of data centers makes it possible for an enterprise to manage and operate its IT servers, applications conveniently, and processing to ensure effective business continuity. It can be either small or large-scale, depending upon the information technology operations and activities of the said enterprise.

Even though the data center design or the data center architecture can differ from one enterprise to another, the data center infrastructure components and technologies are more or less the same.

Plenty of data center types exist that are classified according to ownership, center architecture, infrastructure components, and technologies and equipment used for data storage and computing. On these bases, the four main data center types include:

  • Managed Services Data Centers: Instead of buying a data center facility, the company leases infrastructure and equipment and lets a managed services provider or third party manage it.
  • Enterprise Data Center: This type of data center is owned, designed, and operated by the company, and it is end users optimized. Often, these data centers are housed within the corporate building.
  • Colocation Data Centers: Colocation data centers are owned by others, hosting all the necessary infrastructure, and a company rents a space within them to manage the storage, firewall, and server.
  • Cloud Data Centers: These data centers are off-premises, and a public clouds services provider hosts the company’s applications and data.

Why Is A Data Center Crucial For Business Operations?

The convenience and efficiency offered by data centers make them an essential asset for every enterprise. A data center facility enables the provision of shared access to the company’s data and applications through an intricate network, storage, and compute infrastructure.

Besides making data highly available and enabling the delivery of services and resources to employees, remote users, and customers globally, the well-mapped data center design even ensures data security.

Incorporating an efficient data center can streamline and support various business activities and applications such as:

  • Managing and sharing files and emails
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Logical security workflows
  • Service module integration
  • Databases and resource planning
  • Networking
  • Data backup and recovery
  • Host websites
  • Support cloud storage applications
  • E-commerce transactions, and more.

Data centers also play a vital role in a company’s disaster recovery plans by outsourcing power needs, which helps prevent data loss and reduces latency and bandwidth issues. They also keep the servers functioning in case of a power disaster or technology glitch.

In short, as technology advances and organizations change their business scalability, constant reliability is required to operate and manage applications and activities efficiently. Hence, this need for reliability can be fulfilled by opting for a data center facility that has the ability to deliver secure and fast access to data and provide streamlined services.

Furthermore, since data centers ensure servers remain functional 24/7, companies can focus entirely on their core processes, like user objectives and scalability, instead of spending high costs and time on IT maintenance.

Components Of Data Centers: Infrastructure Of A Data Center Facility And Data Center Resources

The data center facility is a site or space where infrastructure is deployed. Since this physical facility houses various essential data center resources and data center technologies, a proper site layout is necessary. Hence, a data center facility should have the following features:

  • It should be located on an accessible site that offers adequate floor space.
  • The site should have an ample and affordable power supply to power and operate the installed IT infrastructure.
  • Sufficient cooling technologies must be installed on the data center site. As the heavy amount of data computing consumes excessive power, it can generate a lot of heat energy, overheating the data center environment. So, HVAC systems and other cooling technologies must be incorporated into the data center design to remove heat from IT equipment, ensuring servers remain functional.
  • As highly critical data resides in a data center, solid security measures must be deployed on the site. The data center space should have sufficient physical security and logical security workflows to secure networks and data.
  • To oversee and ensure the performance of a data center facility, a building management system should also be incorporated into the data center design. It allows the IT personnel to supervise the data center’s power, temperature, and security control.

Core Components

  • Computing resources like servers and blade servers.
  • Storage infrastructure like disk arrays to store and manage personalized content and data.
  • Network infrastructure to enable storage networking, remote direct memory access, default gateway redundancy, and data access layers.
  • Other data center resources and infrastructure like cables, racks, backup power supply, switches, routers, firewalls, etc.

Basic Layered Framework Of Data Center Architecture

The data center architecture is a multi-tier model, typically composed of three layers that are:

The Core Layer

The core layer provides quick backplane switching for efficient transfer of data across every network involved in the data center. This layer of the data center architecture enables the connection to multiple aggregation modules and delivers a flexible Layer 3 network routed fabric. It helps in balancing web search and server traffic between the aggregation layers and the campus’ data center network core.

The Aggregation Layer

The aggregation layer modules primarily deliver high-speed bandwidth export with lower latency for the server cluster. This layer aids essential data center functions like Layer 2 broadcast domain, service module integration, default gateway redundancy, and spanning tree processing.

Traffic travels quickly from server to server through the convergence layer, and various application optimization and security services are deployed. These services include firewall integration, content switching, load balancing, board switches for application acceleration, SSL offload, network analysis, intrusion detection, etc.

The Access Layer

In this layer, the server farms are physically attached to the data center network, enabling high-density access. The physically attached server components in the access layers include mainframes, blade servers, clustered servers, and multiple access layer switches.

These components, for example, the servers, and switches in the access layer, help fulfill the administrative and server broadcast domain requirements.

A Standard Data Center Architecture Composition

A data center offers various functions to support the services of an organization and its Information Technology operations. In order to deliver the required performance, data center architecture is composed of three components.

These are data center network architecture, data center computing architecture, and data center security architecture. Other components, like the data center information and physical architecture, serve as a support infrastructure in the data center design.

Data Center Network Architecture

The data center network architecture (DCN) is a layout of networking components that link all of the resources in a data center together. It has long been a focus of research for public internet and public clouds providers. This data center architecture composition incorporates routers and switches placed in a two or three-tier topology, for example, fat tree DCN, DCell, three-level DCN, etc.

Data Center Computing Architecture

The data center computing architecture helps minimize transmission latency and bandwidth issues by allowing the moving of computer resources to where the data resides. This model is one of the core components of data center architecture. It plays a vital role in scalability, rapid deployment, lowering capital expenditure costs, and efficient utilization of data center resources.

Data Center Security Architecture

Data center security architecture is the umbrella term for the digital technologies and physical procedures used to safeguard data centers from intrusions, unauthorized access, and threats. The lack of effective security measures in a data center may pose a high risk for data breaches by hackers.

Software and physical security are the two fundamental components of data center security architecture. So, businesses can protect their data center facility from cyber crimes by opting for a robust firewall between the internal network and external traffic.

The Four Models Of Data Center Architecture

Multi-tier Model 

The multi-tier model is one of the most commonly utilized models discussed above as the basic layered framework of data center architecture. It generally comprises three tiers: the data center core layer, the data center aggregation layer, and the data center access layer. Each layer delivers a different IT support function that helps in making data transfer and services more efficient.

Mesh Network Model 

The mesh network model, or the network fabric of a data center architecture, represents the network arrangement in which the components transfer data with the help of interconnecting switches.

It has the ability to support typical cloud services due to its lower latency and predictable capacity. Additionally, the mesh network model is a more cost-effective approach to deploying a network and readily establishes any connection.

Super Spine Mesh 

The super spine mesh model is the ideal data center architecture model for campus data centers or large-scale enterprises. This model enables high volumes of data to move through data halls.

Mesh Point Of Delivery 

The mesh point of delivery model (PoD) consists of interconnection between several leaf switches. This model has a repetitive design, and the incorporated components increase the data center’s scalability, manageability, and modularity.

As this architecture model can easily establish an efficient connection, it can be added to a pre-existing three-tier arrangement. This can enable lower latency data transferring for new services and cloud applications.

Bottom Line 

As technological advancements and improvements occur, data center requirements keep on exceeding. Hence, a well-thought data center architecture is necessary to cater to the demands for efficient IT operations.

It should incorporate all the infrastructure and resources required in a data center in a layered approach to ensure data flows, applications, and services deliver results without a hitch.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
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