The Difference Between Data Centers and Computer Rooms
The differences between a data center and a computer room are often misunderstood. Furthermore, the terms used to describe the location where companies provide a secure, power protected, and environmentally controlled space are often used inappropriately. This white paper provides a basis for understanding the differences between these locations and how they relate to each other.
Data Center Function
The functional requirements of any data center space are fourfold:
To provide a safe and secure place to locate mission critical equipment
To provide sufficient power protection to maintain the critical load
To provide adequate environmental controls, including cooling and fire safety, to operate the space within the critical loads operating parameters
To provide communications connectivity both inside and outside the space
Data Center Philosophy
The goal of any data center is to provide continuous availability of all
network services. Therefore, whether discussing the network design strategy or the facility
design strategy the overall philosophy remains the same:
Keep it as simple as possible
Design for scalability
Utilize modularity wherever possible
Be flexible and adaptable to change
Data Center Description
The term 'data center' is used ubiquitously to describe the space(s) serving as the operating theatre for the enterprise's network service delivery. It has also been described by many other names including computer room, datacenter (spelled incorrectly), data centre (European), server room, network room, network closet, telecommunications room and so on.
The most common differentiator between describing your
space as a data center and calling it a computer room tends to
be scale. However, the official delineator is how the space's
functional pieces are put together. The term 'data center' is the description given when the entire site and building shell are utilized exclusively as a data center site. Therefore, a data center can be described as a larger space composed of smaller spaces including:
Network Operations Center
War Room / Conference Room(s)
Staging Area, Storage, and Loading Dock
People Spaces - Common Areas & General Office Spaces
Typically, the ratio of IT space to support space has declined to about 1:1 as compaction has emerged and developed as a trend in the industry.
From this description it is obvious that a 'computer room' is a functional space within a 'data center'. Interestingly enough, both spaces are described as places to secure information systems, technology data, and infrastructure.
Typical Data Center Topology
The typical data center includes a single entrance room, one or more telecommunications rooms, one main distribution area, and several horizontal distribution areas.
Data Center Systems and Sub-Systems
The following are just some of the major systems and sub-systems that make up any data center location:
Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure
Network & Network Security Equipment
Voice & Data Communications Equipment
Server & Data Storage Equipment
Switchgear & Power Distribution
Generator / ATS
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) & Energy Storage
Computer Room Air Conditioners (CRAC)
Main Cross-connect (MC)
Horizontal Cross-connect (HC)
Zone ports or consolidation points
Doors and Hardware
Cabinets & Racks
Computer Room Description
The best description for a Computer Room however is a Collapsed Data Center where the entrance room is contained within the computer room space.
The computer room is the space that serves the purpose of providing a secure environment for the equipment and cabling directly related to the critical load.
Since this is the principle location for network and server infrastructure special considerations must be given to:
Data Center Design Criteria
Rob Sneevely, in his book, Enterprise Data Center Design and Methodology, correctly defines the criterion for a data center design as, ".the requirement that must be met to provide the system capacities and availability necessary to run the business." However, the design criterion for a data center project differs slightly from that of a computer room project.