Data Centre Networking 101: Everything You Need to Know

Broadly speaking, data centre networking is a process by which networks (i.e. power, communications, and network access) within a facility are moved, combined, or separated into isolated and separate networks. 

Data centre network infrastructure, however, is an array of physical interfaces used to interconnect network servers and storage. Network interfaces come in a variety of forms, including logical cables, switches, routers, and high-speed cables. Each of these interfaces provides some type of data storage or network services.

Data centre infrastructure, however, was traditionally housed in warehouse-like facilities that sit apart from the rest of the data centre. Because there was no real connection between the network elements of a data centre, the storage network infrastructures were largely separated from each other. 

You would only have to worry about local network traffic when attempting to interconnect storage within the same data centre, i.e. the client.


Cable Organization

Even though we’re largely focused on the connectivity aspect when it comes to network infrastructure, it’s imperative to keep in mind that this type of activity is only possible thanks to the physical part of the entire architecture, namely the cabling. After all, if the cables are designed poorly, there can be a plethora of issues within the data centre and connectivity in general. 

We’re not only referring to the commonly messy look of tangled cables; this kind of mishap in cable design can significantly restrict the airflow within the infrastructure, thus causing the equipment throughout the data centre to overheat and possibly get damaged. The downtime can be very costly as a result.

With that in mind, organizing the cabling in a seamless and data-friendly manner involves a variety of different strategies, the most popular being the installation of data centre cables beneath the flooring. This particular trick worked for a good number of years only to be replaced with the cable positioning and organization overhead – as much as the available capacities allow. Thanks to this shift, companies can save a considerable amount of money when it comes to the costs of cooling and energy. 

Structured cabling practices are also a must for top-notch facilities; it’s possible to go with the unstructured, point-to-point cable organization as this is a method that’s easier to install in the beginning, but in the long run, it tends to bring higher maintenance and operational problems and expenses. Essentially, for data centre networking to function as it should, effective cable management is an absolute priority.

Multiple Connectivity Options

A carrier-neutral data centre provides more benefits in terms of the abundance of ISP connectivity options. Just like regular users, the data centre also has to connect to the Internet via the provider’s line. But, data centres are not limited to just one service provider, meaning that they can offer a range of connectivity options to their customer base

This is a rather effective solution for boosting the overalldata centre safety, as the presence of several connectivity options leaves little to no room for going offline completely. The blend of different connectivity options acts stronger in face of the potential danger from DDoS attacks (which deny Internet access).

Routers and Switches

The complexity of cable organization would be too difficult to handle if there weren’t routers and switches to manage the data traffic flow. Essentially, the role of the routers and switches is to make sure that the data travels freely and unobstructedly throughout the facility by assigning the best route available at the moment. Thanks to this, data centres can work with greater data traffic and still count on peak performance with minimal or no lag whatsoever.

The moment there’s an incoming data packet from the public Internet provider, the edge routers process and analyse these packets and determine the best route for it. Following this practice, the core routers take over and manage the data traffic within the data centre network, which is why they’re often referred to as switches.

Relaying the data between the servers that don’t have a physical connection is the job for these core switches. In order to avoid the issue of an overwhelming number of addresses that could affect the speed and connectivity negatively, the second layer of switches is used, also known as pods. Their role in the data centre network system is to encode the packet received, meaning that the core switches won’t have to deal with the individual server requests – only the direction of the traffic toward the specific pod in general.

The Power of Servers

Servers are another crucial factor in the functional operations of a data centre network architecture. Their role is to store data as well as provide the necessary power needed for effective operations, services, and applications. Their overall space may not be too excessive when compared to the rest of the infrastructure, but the whole data centre works in order to boost server performance as a whole. 

To minimize downtime as much as possible, it’s not uncommon for customers to specifically look for access to direct connections when it comes to the placement of their equipment.

Possibility of Direct Connections

It's possible to provide the customers with a single cross-connect option when it comes to the server connection to the servers. This is often required when the customers simply cannot afford to lose a second of their Internet time as the downtime or speed lagging could prove to be too costly for them otherwise. 

It’s not uncommon to see facilities that even offer outbound connections directly. That way, colocation customers can completely bypass the public Internet, which is rather effective in regard to security and connection speed.

It’s true that data centre networking requires high-level management in order to ensure top-notch performance, but it’s also a fact that almost all data centre facilities base their operations on more or less the same principles. That said, optimizing the networks to further improve their services is definitely a largely competitive market nowadays, considering that more and more companies prefer a third-party provider for carrying their entire IT infrastructure.


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