Data Centers

5 Common Types of Data Centers: Do You Know the Differences?

Shad Sechrist

There are many types of data centers, and no two are alike when it comes to how they’re designed—or the applications and data they support with their networking, compute and storage infrastructure.


Data centers are at the heart of modern technology and the digital revolution happening across nearly all industries. They’re responsible for everything from accessible health records and medical information to processing and analyzing data to support industrial automation.


Let’s take a look at five common types of data centers and how they’re used.


1. Enterprise Data Centers

An enterprise data center is a private data center facility that supports a single organization. These types of data centers are best suited for companies that have unique network needs—or companies that do enough business to take advantage of economies of scale. Enterprise data centers are custom built to be compatible with the organization’s distinctive enterprise apps and processes.


You’ll find these data centers located either on the same site as the organization (an on-premises location) or off-premises at a site chosen for the connectivity, power and security it offers. For example: A company may choose to separate business operations from data center operations in case of a disaster. Or, as another example, it may build its data center in a colder climate to reduce energy use.


In either case, the in-house IT department typically manages the white space (IT equipment and infrastructure). The gray space (back-end data center components and equipment) may be outsourced or managed by the internal facilities management team in conjunction with IT.


2. Multi-Tenant Data Centers/Colocation Data Centers

Multi-tenant data centers (also known as colocation data centers) offer data center space to businesses that want to host their computing hardware and servers offsite. These facilities provide the proper data center components—power, cooling, security and networking equipment—needed to do so.


Companies that don’t have the space for their own enterprise data center—or an IT team to dedicate to managing one—often choose a colocation data center. This allows them to redirect financial and personnel resources to other initiatives.


An organization can lease the amount of space they need to host their data and, as their needs change, they can quickly scale up or down. All types of industries take advantage of multi-tenant data centers, from healthcare and banking to manufacturing and government agencies.


The demand placed on these types of facilities is intense. Clients expect constant uptime, ample bandwidth capacity and the ability to access data quickly and at a moment’s notice. To keep up with these increasing pressures, multi-tenant data centers often refresh their hardware and technology more frequently than an enterprise data center.


3. Hyperscale Data Centers

Hyperscale data centers are designed to support very large-scale IT infrastructure. According to Synergy Research Group, there are only 700 hyperscale data centers in existence—but that’s twice as many as five years ago. While this may be a small percentage compared to the number of data centers across the globe (there are more than 7 million data centers worldwide), hyperscale data centers are on the rise. Interesting fact: Amazon, Microsoft and Google account for more than half of all hyperscale data centers.


Like enterprise data centers, hyperscale data centers are owned and operated by the company they support—just on a much larger scale for cloud computing platforms and big data storage. A typical hyperscale data center has at least 5,000 servers, 500 cabinets and 10,000 square feet of floor space.


4. Edge/Micro Data Centers

The demand for instantaneous connectivity, expansion of IoT and need for analytics and automation are driving the growth of edge solutions so computing occurs closer to the actual data.


These types of data centers are small and located near the people they serve to handle real-time data processing, analysis and action, making low-latency communication with smart devices possible. By processing data services as close to end users as possible, edge data centers allow organizations to reduce communication delay and improve the customer experience.


As innovative technologies continue to transform the way we live and work—from robots, telemedicine and 5G to autonomous vehicles, wearable healthcare technology and smart electrical grids—we’ll continue to see more of these types of data centers emerge.


5. Container/Modular Data Centers

A container data center is usually a module or shipping container that’s packaged with ready-made, plug-and-play data center components: servers, storage, networking gear, UPS, generators, air conditioners, etc.


The concept of a container/modular data center was first introduced only about 15 years ago, and it’s now being used in temporary and permanent deployments. You’ll often find modular data centers on construction sites or in disaster areas (to support alternate care sites during the pandemic, for example). In permanent environments, they’re deployed to free up space inside a building or to allow an organization to scale quickly to accommodate new technology, such as adding IT infrastructure to an education institution to support digital classrooms.


Belden’s Collaborative Approach to Data Centers

Belden’s data center team understands what it takes to achieve excellent connectivity, 24/7 reliability and uptime, improved network security and scalability in any data center environment.


We can support data transmission and density requirements for enterprise, multi-tenant, hyperscale, edge and modular data centers with holistic data center components and solutions that range from power and cooling to security, access control, monitoring and more.


Our collaborative approach focuses on goals, challenges and operational considerations first—and how to create an optimal solution that fits within your data center environment. As we talk through concepts, we’ll generate results that wouldn’t be possible if one person was working in a silo to solve the problem on their own. Collaboration results in innovation—and innovation gives organizations what they need to thrive.


Want to learn more about our data center components and solutions? Start here—and also be sure to watch Key Insights on the Five Types of Data Centers, a webinar we presented in partnership with Graybar.