Where the Internet Lives

Google made fairly popular this phrase a few weeks ago. They coined it when they offered a peak of their latest and greatest stuff in Data Centers. If you want to check it out, see here http://bit.ly/Yqj1Km

Their point is that in some sense Internet really lives in a Data Center. Every computer system we use, every application we download from the internet, the blog that I publish, every social network we visit, needs at least one physical computer to function or to run. These computers are called servers to reflect the fact that they provide resources for others to use. 

If you just want to maintain a simple website which doesn't really change often, which won’t get many hits daily, you could do that by using a personal computer at home or at a small office. You hire an engineer to pay for the hosting, design and build the site, plug the computer to the internet, call it a server and all is set. It would be more than enough. 

If you are a company like Google, HP, Facebook, Coca Cola, or Bank of America, you need hundreds of thousands of servers to serve the milliard applications, systems, and users that your services or your business operations require on a daily basis. 

In that global scenario with millions of users to serve every minute is when a Data Center really makes sense. Several data centers actually. The differences from the Data Center to that of the computer or laptop we use at home not huge in kind; only in scale, complexity, technology and computing power. 

Here are a few key concerns and technologies related to Data Centers Solutions. 

Key Data Center Concerns 

- IT: IT group is the ultimate responsible for the management and decision making process related to the Data Center. Defining which systems are considered critical for the operations of the business or the service provided, and how they must be managed. 

- Facilities: Facilities group deals with the physical space and its management. As well as that of the several infrastructure pieces supporting the Data Center and its operation: air conditioning units, power supplies and cabling, racks, networking, etc. 

- Finance: Data Centers are a huge and long term investments. They can easily span a decade or so. They must be designed and maintained with a strong focus on financial sustainability or otherwise the company could be severely impacted. 

- Environment: Data Centers are also a huge point for environmental concerns. They demand massive amounts of energy and generate massive amounts of heat, demanding lots of resources. Latest related technologies tend to maximize the energy efficiency, looking for ways to take as most advantage as possible from the available resources. The term Green Data Center is becoming usual to refer a site able to operate with maximum efficiency. 

Key Data Center Technologies 

- Storage: every system needs data to run. Just like my laptop or yours does. Disk drives are used for this purpose. That still holds true for servers in a Data Center. However the technologies available at that level allow managing not only one or two disks at a time, but dozens of them. Support systems allow you to decide which servers are connected to which drives. If a server should change the drive to which it is connected and so on. 

- Networking: network is all about connections, connections among all the computers which make out the Data Center. This is pretty much like your connection to your provider of Internet and your wireless router. But at another level of magnitude. So you can have all sorts of devices like switches, routers, firewalls, etc. 

- Hardware: hardware devices are the actual computers or servers operating in the Data Center. They can vary from actual laptops or standard CPU’s to huge enterprise computing devices built by companies like HP or IBM with several processors able to run thousands of applications at the same time. 

- Virtualization: this is one of the most powerful technologies available for data center management. It refers to the term Virtual Machine. A software program which purpose is to actually simulate to the smallest detail the functioning of a physical computer. To understand this power, think for example if you need to install 5 computers for your new systems. You could have to buy 5 servers, bring them in and install them, taking several days before being able to take the systems live. Using a virtual environment you could have planned ahead to have servers with additional space and computing resources. In this way you just need to make 5 clones of an existing virtual machine for installing your new systems. A logical process which would take only a few hours. 

- Sergio Calvo.

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