In the industrial age, companies built warehouses. They needed ever more space to store the results of their massive product manufacturing operations. In today’s information age, companies build data centers. The idea is basically the same, it’s just that the product and storage facility have evolved. Information is the product, and data centers are the warehouses where the product is stored.
Everything Is On The Internet
There is very little that hasn’t been pushed onto the Internet somehow. Unfathomable amounts of information and communication zip through wires and bounce between cellular towers and satellites, all to bring us the instant gratification that we’ve become so accustomed to. The network is vast, and its storage needs are mind-boggling.
It is estimated that there are over 300 million data centers in the U.S. alone. Some may not be much bigger than a storage closet, housing just a few computers to keep a small business running. Others sprawl out, covering millions of square feet, providing a home for thousands of high-tech machines that never power down.
Just imagine how much data needs to be stored, and instantly accessible, to keep a company like FedEx running, with all of the packages they track and deliver, worldwide, in just one day. Then think about how many other companies exist that require this type of data storage and retrieval — Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc. It is data centers that make all of this possible.
In order for data centers to function and perform at optimal levels, there are strict environmental conditions that must be maintained. The two biggest enemies of all data centers, large and small, are heat and dust. High temperatures and dust particles in the air cannot only cause performance problems, they can cause complete failure of computer parts and systems.
We’ve all had enough basic experience with personal computers to understand that cleanliness and heat can have a big impact on their performance. Think about how hot the bottom of your laptop sometimes gets when it’s sitting on your lap, and imagine what that kind of heat generation would add up to in a room with one thousand, or even one hundred thousand, computers running. Keeping free of dust and eliminating heat from data center rooms is an absolute top priority. Failure to do either means (a possibly catastrophic) failure of the systems housed within the data center.
The only thing that might be more important than air filtration and cooling in a data center environment is making sure the electricity never runs out. Between the computers themselves and the air conditioning equipment needed to maintain the environment, data centers use a massive amount of power.