There was a time when our information demands were simpler. The main entertainment we had was TV shows and they are broadcasted into our homes at set times on a few channels, we typed up memos and letters in triplicate for paper distribution and backup and we had conversations on phones wired. Even mobiles used to be used just for calls and texts. However, since the dawn of the Internet, smartphones, tablets, high bandwidth broadband and other new technologies, we are constantly on the web and always demanding data to be delivered our devices.
Paper documents of course still exist however, we get lots of what used to be paperwork in the form of email, websites, PDFs, Word documents and other various digitised files generated by software. Even books are being converted to images on our devices, computers and e-readers. Electronic exchange of data is required for most business transactions and rapidly becoming the normal for many of our personal interactions. With this massive demand for instant delivery of digital information came the need for concentrations of computer and networking equipment that can handle the requests and serve up the data on demand. Thus, the modern Data Centre was born.
Data Centres are simply centralised locations where computing and networking equipment is solely concentrated for collecting, storing, processing and distributing or allowing access to large amounts of data. Back in the day of the room-sized early computers, a Data Centre might have had one supercomputer. But eventually as equipment got smaller, more affordable and the needs of data processing increased – we started networking multiple servers (the industrial counterparts to our home computers) together to increase the processing power.
We connect them to communication networks so that people can access them or the information within them wherever they are located. Large numbers of these servers and Data Centre equipment can be housed within a room, entire buildings or groups of buildings. Because of their high concentrations of servers, frequently stacked in racks tat are placed in rows, Data Centres are sometimes referred as server farms. They provide important services such as data storage, backup, recovery, data management and networking. These Data Centres can store and serve websites, emails, instant messaging, cloud storage, e-commerce, gaming – the list goes on.
Most companies and governments need its own Data Centre or needs access to someone else’s. In some cases, some build and maintain them In-House (In-House Data Centres), some rent servers at a co-location (Colos) and some use the public cloud-based services supplied by numerous companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Dropbox. These In-House Data Centres and Colos began to spring up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, sometime after the Internet usage went full mainstream. The Data Centres of some large companies such as Facebook are spaced all over the planet to server the constant need for access to massive amounts of data. There are now reported more than 8 million Data Centres of different shapes and sizes across the globe today.