Data center types

Data center types in comparison: from server cabinets to hyperscalers


As diverse as the individual requirements of companies are for the collection, processing and transfer of data, the kinds of data centers (DC) are now equally diverse. There is no longer a single type of data center (DC). But what does this term cover? And how do the different types distinguish themselves from one another? These are precisely the questions that will be addressed in the following blog post, which will focus on the different types of data centers.

How do different types of data centers distinguish themselves from one another?

In theory, the different types of data centers can be differentiated by two factors. First, by the spatial unit. Here, the spectrum ranges from a single server rack in which the IT resources are bundled, to a room or floor, to a separate building. The second factor relates to the functional units, which are essential for computing, storage and transfer services and control the underlying processes. Specifically, the IT equipment.


Data center architectures for SMEs

Cabinets & enterprise data centers

The structure and equipment of a data center are primarily based on the requirements and applications used by a company. For example, the air-conditioned rooms of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) usually contain a few servers installed in cabinets known as racks. A rack can hold multiple servers. Modular expansion options make it easy to expand the server landscape.

Larger installations are called enterprise data centers. For this purpose, several rows of racks are installed in large rooms. Generally, such installations are designed redundantly and placed in two separate fire protection zones for security reasons. Simple air conditioning is usually no longer sufficient here, which is why powerful cooling systems are often used to ensure smooth operation.


Third party: outsourcing data centers

Colocations & hosting

A relatively new but rapidly growing variant of data centers are colocations. This term describes the operation of a data center in the building of a third-party provider. Collocations are specially designed to meet the requirements of different users and offer companies the opportunity to outsource some or all of their own IT equipment to a state-of-the-art data center environment. For this purpose, the colocation data center provides users with their own space in the existing rooms. One option is so-called "cages". These are specially secured sections in which a tenant installs his own hardware. Alternatively, a colocation can also be equipped with several rows of racks. Users can book individual racks or servers for their own applications. Depending on the provider, managed services for data center operation can also be used in addition to the state-of-the-art building infrastructures, such as those offered by Rosenberger OSI.

While the hardware is provided by the customer himself in the case of colocations, virtual or physical servers can be rented in the case of hosting. The equipment provided, the programs and the basic software belong to the data center operator. They will also take care of the maintenance of the equipment, provide security and, last but not least, regular updates. However, if required, they also take over the administration of the solutions used by a hoster customer. Users are connected to the hoster's data center via secure leased lines or the Internet.


Highly standardized and highly scalable

Hyperscalers & cloud data centers

Hyperscalers are in the upper application segment. This is the name given to systems in which several thousand servers are connected in a network (grid computing). They are almost endlessly scalable, highly available and offer maximum performance, throughput and redundancy. To cope with this, a high degree of standardization is necessary. The best-known hyperscalers are the four major cloud providers Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Google.

Hyperscalers offer their customers Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and take over the complete administration of the systems for them. By cooperating with several hyperscalers, users avoid dependence on a single provider and its infrastructure. Cooperation with other partners also offers the opportunity to select exactly the cloud services that best suit individual requirements. Business challenges can be mastered quickly and cost-effectively in this way. Companies become more flexible and efficient as a result.

A study conducted by IDC in June 2020 shows that the cloud is increasingly finding its way into German companies and is already firmly anchored here. According to the survey, 46 percent of companies questioned are in an advanced phase of cloud implementation.


If there is a network of hyperscalers or even smaller data centers, this is referred to as a cloud data center. Providers in this environment are Oracle, Telekom or Plusserver, to name just a few. They often work in close cooperation with each other to offer a comprehensive range and seamless coverage.


Special data center types

Edge and conventional data center in a network

In addition to traditional data centers, special types of data centers are increasingly emerging. For example, due to the dynamic development of IoT, more and more Edge data centers are emerging. At the heart of this is a classic data center that a company operates at its site with common infrastructure. Local data processing is already carried out at the external points (edge) by the components used there. One example of this is sensor measurements such as those used in a Smart City for road traffic. The data preprocessed there is then transmitted to the higher-level data center. Short signal runtimes enable real-time applications.

Supercomputers as performance champions among data centers

Supercomputers are another special type. These high-performance data centers are characterized by extremely high performance and, from a technical point of view, operate at the highest possible performance level. Their processing capacity, especially the speed of computation, is many times higher than that offered by the fastest normal computer. Typical applications include weather forecasting or processing highly complex or data-intensive projects within science and research. The world's most powerful supercomputers are included in a TOP500 list and compared with each other.

Container: Flexible data center solutions

Within the special data center types, container solutions are the last to be named. These are made up of one or more modules that are already equipped with all the components required for data center operation. In this way, data centers can be set up promptly at various locations without great effort. Containers also allow existing structures to be expanded without difficulty. They can take over regular operations or be used as an Edge solution. Their use increases IT flexibility and optimizes costs.

Which data center structures does your company rely on? How will your data center develop in the future?