a brief history of data centre design

From Vacuum Tubes to Microchips 

The idea of a dedicated data centre is actually based on the original designs and operations of the early computers of the 20th century. These extremely large and often temperamental systems needed an area large enough to house them and their ancillary facilities, and thus, data centre design was born.

The first issue that needed to be resolved was mounting and storage: all this equipment needed somewhere to go, to be held securely in its proper place, and so racks to hold them were designed and the basic data centre design began to take shape. These original racks are still the most commonly used today, the standard 19 inch racks you see in every data centre around the world.

But once the systems are in place, there comes another issue: connectivity and power. All these systems needed to be connected and powered, the result being a huge mass of cabling that needed somewhere to go. Leaving it bundled would not only present a hazard, but would interfere with air flow and decrease the effect of any cooling.

The data centre design therefore had to accommodate the solutions, such as cable trays to carry the load, but where would they go?

The solution was to have them hidden, either in a suspended ceiling, or a raised floor. 

An Early Data Centre
This meant that not only were they organised, but they were hidden from general view, out of reach of people and therefore more secure. Of course today the security protocols for access are just as strict as they were back then, when the systems were primarily used for military purposes, but with the development of new technology such as biometric readers and mantraps, it’s never been easier to keep unauthorised personnel out of your data centre.

The original cooling systems used were very basic, a simple fresh air inlet and even carpeted floors. This air conditioning did just as much harm as good though, the variable humidity of fresh air effecting the paper (and later tape) libraries that the systems used.

Realising this, the data centre design was changed, and a close control system was put in place, restricting outside airflow from interfering with the mainframe.

As data centre design got more advanced  however, the cabling solutions also allowed for the integration of environmental controls such as cooling systems under the raised floor, which coupled with today’s modern aisle configuration, can result in an extremely effective means of keeping the data centre at a stable humidity and temperature.

But what about when things did go wrong? The old data centres were rooms that you actually worked in, and so people were always able to grab fire extinguishers should the need arise. However these days the majority of data centres are off limits to people, and so automated environmental monitoring systems and fire suppression systems are employed to deal with any issue as soon as it’s detected.

This basic data centre design has evolved over time to suit new demands and requirements into many different variants and designs, but their origins remain the same. From bulky and humble beginnings, to the digital powerhouse we know today.

A Modern Data Centre With In Rack Cooling

For more information or help designing your own data centre, please contact us on 01993 774444 or email enquiries@infiniti-it.co.uk