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.
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.
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.
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