History of the Data Centre

by Amy Nutt

The Beginning of the Computer Era -A Dedicated Room While the data centre as we know it was perfected during the dot com boom of the late 1990s, data centres actually have their roots in the earliest beginnings of the computer era. Early computer systems, which were huge, room-sized machines, required a lot of space and a controlled environment. The complexity of operating and maintaining these machines also led to the practice of secluding them in dedicated rooms.

Computer security became a consideration during this era. These early computers were incredibly expensive, and many of them were used for military purposes or important civilian business ventures. A dedicated room allowed businesses and organizations to control access to the machine.

Another factor influencing the trend toward separate computer rooms was the need to keep systems cool. Early computer systems used a great deal of power and were prone to overheating. Dedicated rooms could be climate controlled to compensate for the tendency to overheat.

These early computers required a multitude of component-connecting cables, and these cables needed to be organized. This led to the creation of some of the data centre standards we know today. Racks were devised to mount equipment, and cable trays were created. Also, floors were elevated to accommodate these early computers.

The Advent of Microcomputers During the 1980s, the computer industry experienced the boom of the microcomputer era. In the excitement accompanying this boom, computers were installed everywhere, and little thought was given to the specific environmental and operating requirements of the machines.

Organization of information was difficult to achieve, and lost data became a major concern. Information technology teams were developed to maintain and install these early microcomputers, but clearly, the industry needed a solution.

The “Data Center” is Created Soon the complexity of information technology systems demanded a more controlled environment for IT systems. In the 1990s, client-server networking became an established standard. The servers for these systems began to find a home in the old dedicated computer rooms left from the early computers.

In addition to putting servers in a dedicated room, this time period saw the invention of the hierarchical design. This design came about through the easy accessibility of inexpensive networking equipment and industry standards for network cabling.

The term “data center” first gained popularity during this era. Data centres referenced rooms which were specially designed to house computers and were dedicated to that purpose.

The Internet Data Centre As the dot com bubble grew, companies began to understand the importance of having an Internet presence. Establishing this presence required that companies have fast and reliable Internet connectivity. They also had to have the capability to operate 24 hours a day in order to deploy new systems.

Soon, these new requirements resulted in the construction of extremely large data facilities. These facilities, called “Internet data centres” were responsible for the operation of computer systems within a company and the deployment of new systems. These large data centres revolutionized technologies and operating practices within the industry.

However, not all companies could afford to operate a huge Internet data centre. The physical space, equipment requirements, and highly-trained staff made these large data centres extremely expensive and sometimes impractical.

Now – Private Data Centres, Improved Standards Private data centres were born out of this need for an affordable Internet data centre solution. Today’s private data centres allow small businesses to have access to the benefits of the large Internet data centres without the expense of upkeep and the sacrifice of valuable physical space.

These days, operating and constructing data centres is a widely-recognized industry. New standards for documentation and system requirements add a high level of consistency to data centre design. Disaster recovery plans and operational availability metrics ensure the reliability of today’s data centre systems.

What the Future Holds The future of data centre design is likely to reflect today?s emphasis on green practices. Environmentally responsible computer and networking systems, as well as refined operation practice, are likely to shape the data centres of the future.

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