A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Data Centers


In our previous exploration of hyperscale data centers, we briefly touched upon other types of data centers. These are enterprise, colocation, and telecom data centers. Although hyperscale data centers are massive and require substantial resources to maintain, they don't dominate the data center landscape. Industry estimates suggest that hyperscale data centers comprise merely 7% of the total global data centers. This guide navigates through the most common types of data centers, their distinguishing traits, and the benefits each can offer.       

Types of Data Centers and Their Network Capacity 

Enterprise Data Centers

Enterprise data centers are data centers owned and operated by a single organization. Specifically constructed to meet the organization's unique needs, the initial costs of setting up an enterprise data center can be considerable. Organizations must have enough space and power to construct a data center on-premises and maintain a team to oversee the infrastructure and applications.

There are many reasons why a company may want to maintain its own data centers. This includes regulatory compliance, performance, and data security. In many cases, employee data, confidential design files, and secret formulas will have a devastating impact on a company.s reputation or bottom line if leaked. Consequently, these companies may opt for rigorous measures to secure their data centers—measures that may exceed what a third-party data center may offer.    

As one of the most common types of data centers, the costs of building and maintaining an enterprise data center costs may vary depending on its size. As the data center's size grows, so does its management complexity. This often leads to larger enterprise data centers recruiting third-party service providers to manage specific aspects of their data center such as performing system upgrades, infrastructure maintenance, data backup, security, and more. In scenarios where the costs of owning a data center outweigh the benefits, enterprises can consider transitioning to a colocation or cloud model to cut costs or enhance efficiency.  

Colocation Data Centers

Colocation data centers are data centers used by several organizations, often hundreds at a time. These types of data centers lease basic necessities such as facilities with power, racks, and other supporting infrastructure to organizations to store their IT equipment. With the costly components of building data centers taken care of, organizations can commit to long-term contracts for installment payments. In addition, with the growing availability of IT services being offered, colocation data centers are growing in popularity and are gradually replacing the need for enterprise data centers. According to McKinsey’s projection for 2030, US data center demand for colocation data centers will continue to grow while enterprise data centers decline. 

Colocation data centers vary in size to cater to different organizational needs, with smaller retail colocations serving smaller entities and wholesale colocation centers accommodating larger ones. Retail colocation data centers, typically meeting power capacity requirements ranging from 100kW to 1MW, offer turn-key solutions. These include services for daily operations, power capacity management, cooling, security, and telecommunications carrier access.

On the other hand, wholesale colocation data centers primarily cater to a single customer, providing only space and power that can reach up to several megawatts. They do not typically include additional services such as IT technicians or network monitoring.

An additional advantage of colocation data centers lies in the ownership structure. A single owner may operate multiple branches across various regions, simplifying the process for organizations to establish multiple points of presence via a single provider. For example, Equinix boasts to have colocation data centers in over 20 countries. For inter-state or multi-national corporations, colocation data centers allow them to quickly set up localized data centers in their target regions.

Cloud Data Centers

Cloud data centers are a step up from colocation data centers. This type of data center provides both space and data center components for organizations to rent. Through the Internet, businesses can access their data center resources remotely. With a cloud data center, the cloud service provider assumes responsibility for maintenance, updates, and ensuring compliance with service level agreements (SLAs) for the specific components of the infrastructure stack under their direct management. 

Transitioning to a cloud data center doesn't have to occur all at once. In many instances, organizations opt to gradually shift portions of their data center infrastructure into the cloud. This process creates what is known as a hybrid cloud data center, supported by various service models. The segments of the data center that the organization continues to self-manage are often referred to as the private cloud. In contrast, the outsourced components are relocated to the public cloud. The figure below illustrates some common hybrid cloud data centers and the types of service models available.     
Types of Hybrid Cloud Data Centers

Several prominent cloud data center providers include IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. While there are numerous smaller cloud data center providers globally, many larger corporations still favor the proven capabilities of these larger providers. Some of these cloud service providers, such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, are also owners of hyperscale data centers.

These hyperscale data centers are some of the world's largest and are used not only to provide cloud data center services to their customers but also to run their own applications. In many cases, it's the use of these hyperscale applications that enables these providers to offer more robust and advanced services to their enterprise customers.
Data Center Evolution

Although enterprise, colocation, cloud, and hyperscale data centers are the most common types of data centers you will hear or read about, it comes in many forms. Historically, data centers were highly centralized with all components situated together. However, with the growing demand for 5G connectivity and the increasing popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and automation, there's now a need to process data closer to its source. This necessity is driving the push towards edge data centers.     

Edge data centers are a subtype of data centers that are much smaller and often times process data in real time to reduce response latency and reduce backhaul bandwidth. An example would be establishing an edge data center within a smart city to process traffic surveillance data. Edge data centers can be located virtually anywhere - standalone facilities, telecom's points of presence, base stations, cable headends, or even customer premises.    

The distribution of data center resources from a central location into smaller edge locations will bring a layer of complexity to data center networking. Instead of a large pipeline of data center interconnects connecting a few large data centers together, there will now be a need for interconnects of varying bandwidths and capacity depending on how the data center network evolves. Therefore, the flexibility of a data center's networking equipment is very important.  

Regardless of whether you're managing your own enterprise data center or leveraging colocation or cloud data center providers, the versatility of services you or your provider can offer will depend on the flexibility of your network equipment. Programmable data center switches can offer the necessary flexibility for implementing different types of data centers and evolving with your data center as new services are introduced.     
Learn more about Evolving Trends and Technologies Shaping Data Center Strategies here. Or, alternatively, for details about how UfiSpace's programmable data center switches can evolve your data center, please contact our sales team

In this Article: Colud Data center