Components of modern data centers

DC-Insight: The four most important components of modern data centers


The four most important components of modern data centers

This is what the optimal data center looks like

Data centers are the backbone of the digital transformation. In order to promote innovation, a modern data center infrastructure is needed that is reflected in all areas - from power supply to racks and cabling. Above all, the issue of sustainability is once again becoming a priority for many operators.

Within the last decade, the need for computing power has increased tenfold with progressive digitization. At the same time, the energy requirement per gigabit in data centers is now twelve times lower than ten years ago. A study by the Borderstep Institute and eco - Association of the Internet Industry - also comes to the conclusion that a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from data centers can be expected by 2030. The basis for this development is virtualization, better climate and waste heat concepts as well as more energy-saving technologies. To ensure that data centers are optimally positioned today and in the future, modern approaches must be incorporated in practically all core areas.


1 Secure power supply and UPS: exploiting sustainability potential

No data center is conceivable without an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). In case the main power supply should fail, the batteries of the UPS system temporarily take over until diesel generators come into operation. New and intelligent concepts for batteries and battery rooms are currently changing traditional systems: modern, maintenance-free batteries are continuously maintained in the air-conditioned battery room by intelligent charging electronics. In the event of a complete failure of the external power supply, they can supply the data center with full-load power for around ten minutes. The diesel generators are started up during this time, which ensures the power supply for longer periods of time.

Saving energy with direct current

Especially hyper scalers are pursuing an interesting strategy within this area with regard to the concept of sustainability. The UPS system converts the alternating current from outside into direct current in order to charge the batteries for the emergency power supply. The positive effect is that the use of direct current significantly reduces heat emission and energy consumption. Conventionally, direct current is converted back into alternating current to supply the IT hardware in the event of a problem. However, new concepts are based on using only direct current in the data center and dispensing with the conversion, which requires a high level of energy. The Open Compute Project (OCP) and the Open19 initiative aim to help eliminate inefficiencies in the data center with open specifications and the supply of direct current to the racks.


2 Security, fire protection and environmental control systems

In the data center, the highest security standards apply, not only for the defense against cyber-attacks, but also for structural security, access and access control as well as redundantly designed systems. Sophisticated fire protection plays a decisive role, since there is hardly any place in which energy is as concentrated as in a data center. A dense network of fire detectors and an early fire detection system are therefore just as important as an extinguishing system. The air in the data center is constantly extracted and the particle concentration is measured by means of laser light. In the event of a fire, for instance due to a short circuit, an alarm is usually automatically triggered at the fire brigade. The extinguishing system floods the data center with non-toxic nitrogen in the event of fire, which suffocates the flames. At the same time, overall operation can still be maintained.

Sustainable air conditioning and the use of exhaust heat

Air conditioning also plays a decisive role, as the hardware emits almost 100 percent of the energy required in the form of heat. An excessive rise in temperature could also damage the sensitive hardware. Enclosures for hot and cold aisles have now become standard. With new concepts such as waste heat utilization, attempts are being made to use the heat generated by the data center hardware to heat other parts of the building, for example.


3 Interior data center area: The server racks in intelligent architecture

Heat reduction is usually further supported by the construction of a double floor in the server room. This is a simple principle. The warm air that is blown out from the servers is drawn in by a recirculating air cooling unit, cooled by a heat exchanger and finally returned to the racks. This air circulation ensures that there is an appropriate room temperature in the heart of the data center, where the servers, storage and network systems are arranged in standardized 19-inch racks. Modern racks are designed to be as flexible and space-saving as possible with a high port density, can be individually adapted to IT applications and should offer sufficient space for cabling. Especially in view of the increasing use of Spine-Leaf architectures, this becomes more important, as far more cables are used here than with conventional approaches. Future-proofing is also provided by the ability of the racks to quickly and easily replace IT hardware for new applications as required.


4 Data center cabling: structured and fail-safe

The passive network components such as cables and connectors, which connect all systems redundantly to each other and to the Internet, should allow both copper and fiber optic cabling networks to be used. Fail-safe and structured cabling ensures the success of a data center concept and trouble-free operation, which complies with current standards. Technology in the data center is continuously changing: Therefore, cabling must support all current and future communication systems and be neutral not only with regard to the transmission protocol but also with respect to the end devices: Otherwise, there is a risk that future changes within the data center infrastructure will entail considerable costs.

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The need for speed in data centers

How cabling for 400G Ethernet might look like

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Ready for new data transmission speeds

The type of data transmission, the length of transmission distances, fiber and connector types should be selected according to individual requirements. Especially large data centers are confronted with an increasing "need for speed". New cabling systems such as PreCONNECT® SEDECIM enable the new 400GBASE-SR8 transmission speed, which allows to bridge distances of up to 100 meters at 400 Gbit/s.

For particularly high requirements in terms of reliability, connectors of the highest quality are required: This includes a special surface treatment, which ensures that plugs are dirt-repellent and self-cleaning in order to exclude connection problems.

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