What Different Types Of Data Centres Are There?

Different Types of Data CentresDespite the common currency of the term, a data centre is not one single kind of facility for IT operations. A London data centre used by one of the City’s financial giants will be quite different from a data centre in the USA custom-built to house the server racks of Google or Facebook, for instance.
Depending on their primary function, data centres need to be designed and built in very different ways – and with the potential to expand the scope of their applications in the future. Different data centres take very different approaches to such issues as overall size and extent of server virtualisation or the extent to which data traffic remains within the centre (east-west) or transmits between centre and client (north-south).
Generally speaking, there are three different kinds of data centre, designed for three general kinds of application – hosting data centres, which offer secure IT services to outside clients; portal data centres, which are used by search engines, social networks and online gaming concerns and enterprise data centres, designed to serve the computing needs of a specific business or organisation.
Hosting data centres need to cater to a wide range of applications, so they require versatility, dependent on their clients’ needs. They can be of many different sizes – take a London data centre that has only a few dozen clients based in the region. This can be many orders of magnitude smaller than a massive transnational concern that takes in dozens of facilities worldwide. Hosting centres tend towards high levels of north-south traffic.
Portal data centres are built for very specific applications with high levels of user interaction – most traffic in such data centres runs east-west due to processing the content and applications which users have accessed from outside. Such environments do not rely heavily on virtualisation, although of course their users may well do.
While enterprise data centres usually serve just one user, the amount of applications they are expected to support can be very wide. For a smaller company, such as in our notional London data centre, less than 200 servers may be required – while larger enterprises can need upwards of a thousand. The mix of north-south and east-west traffic depends on whether the enterprise in question has much customer interaction or not.

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