A data center is a facility that centralizes an organization’s IT operations and equipment, and where it stores, manages, and disseminates its data. Data centers house a network’s most critical systems and are vital to the continuity of daily operations. Consequentially, the security and reliability of data centers and their information is a top priority for organizations.

Although data center designs are unique, they can generally be classified as Internet or enterprise (or “internal”) data centers. Internet-facing data centers usually support relatively few applications, are typically browser-based, and have many users, typically unknown. In contrast, enterprise data centers service fewer users, but host more applications that vary from off-the-shelf to custom applications.

Data center architectures and requirements can differ significantly. For example, a data center built for a cloud service provider like Amazon EC2 satisfies significantly different facility, infrastructural, and security requirements than a completely private data center, such as one built for the Pentagon that is dedicated to securely maintaining classified data.

Data centers are physical or virtual infrastructure used by enterprises to house computer, server and networking systems and components for the company’s information technology (IT) needs, which typically involve storing, processing and serving large amounts of mission-critical data to clients in a client/server architecture.

A data center, or datacenter, often requires extensive redundant or backup power supply systems, cooling systems, redundant networking connections and policy-based security systems for running the enterprise’s core applications.

Data center management involves ensuring the reliability of both the connections to the data center as well as the mission-critical information contained within the data center’s storage. It also entails efficiently placing application workloads on the most cost-effective compute resource available.

Data centers have evolved significantly in recent years, adopting technologies such as virtualization to optimize resource utilization and increase IT flexibility. As enterprise IT needs continue to evolve toward on-demand services, many organizations are moving toward cloud-based services and infrastructure. A focus has also been placed on initiatives to reduce the enormous energy consumption of data centers by incorporating more efficient technologies and practices in data center management to minimize environmental impact. Data centers built to these standards have been coined “green data centers.”