Evolution of the Data Center

August 2, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

Just as computers, phones and everything else in our world has made advancements over the years, so have data centers. Data centers play a critical role in networking and have evolved to allow businesses better access to their data with improved usability while being easier to manage. Traditionally, data centers were only as good as the physical space they took up, they were restricted by server space and having enough room for hardware to be stored. With today’s technological advancements, they are less space-centric, and more focused on the cloud, speed and flexibility. Here, we’ll take a look at the evolution of the data center, from inception to the realm of future possibilities.

 

The Early Days

 

The earliest data centers were large rooms filled with computers that were difficult to operate and maintain. These primordial behemoths needed a special environment to keep the equipment running properly – equipment that was connected by a maze of cables and was stacked on racks, cable trays and raised floors. Early data centers also used a large amount of power and generated a lot of heat, so they had to be cooled to keep from overheating. In 1964, the first supercomputer, the ancestor to today’s data centers, was built by Control Data Corporation. It was the fastest computer of its time with peak performance of 3 MFlops, sold for $8 million and continued operating until 1977.

 

1970s

 

The 1970s brought the invention of the Intel 4004 processor which allowed for computers to be smaller. And in the 1973, the first desktop was introduced, the Xerox Alto. Although it was never sold commercially, it was the first step toward eliminating the mainframe. The first LAN was brought to life in 1977 in the form of ARCNET, which allowed computers to connect to one another with coax cables that linked to a shared floppy data storage system.

 

1980s

 

The personal computer (PC) was born in 1982, with the introduction of the IBM model 5150. This new, smaller computer was a far cry from the expensive and expansive mainframes that were hard to cool. PCs allowed organizations to use desktop computers throughout their companies much more efficiently, leading to a boom in the microcomputer industry. Plus, in 1985, Ethernet LAN technology was standardized, largely taking the place of ARCNET. 

  

1990s

  

The 1990s started with microcomputers working as servers and filling old mainframe storage rooms. These servers were accumulated by companies and managed on premise, they were knows as data centers. The mid-90s saw the introduction of the Internet, and with it came a demand for faster internet connections, increased online presence and network connectivity as a business requirement. To meet increased demands, new, larger scale, enterprise server rooms were built with data centers that contained hundreds or thousands of servers working around-the clock.  In the late 1990s, virtualization technology originally introduced in the 80s was revisited with a new purpose in the form of a virtual workstation, which was comparable to a virtual PC. Enterprise applications also became available for the first time through an online website.

 

2000s 

 

By the early 2000s, PCs and data centers has grown exponentially. New technology was quickly emerging to allow data to be transmitted easier and faster. The first cloud-based services were launched by Amazon Web services, which included storage, web services and computation. There was also a growing realization of the power required to run all of these data centers, so new innovations were being introduced to help data centers be more energy efficient. In 2007, the modular data center was launched. One of the most popular was from Sun Microsystems, which has 280 servers in a 20-foot shipping container that could be sent anywhere in the world. This offered a more cost effective way for corporate computing, but also refocused the industry on virtualization and ways to consolidate servers.

 

2010s

 

By the 2010s, the Internet had become engrained in every part of day-to-day life and business operations. Facebook had become a main player and began investing resources in trying to find ways to make data centers more cost and energy efficient across the industry. Plus, virtual data centers were common in almost 3/4 of organizations and over 1/3 of businesses were using the Cloud. The focus then shifted to software-as-a-service (SaaS), with subscription and capacity-on-demand being the main focus, instead of infrastructure, software and hardware. This model increased the need for bandwidth and the creation of huge companies providing access to cloud-based data centers, including Amazon and Google.

 

Today, the Cloud appears to be the path we are headed on, with new technology being introduced and the implementation of the IoT becoming more of a reality every day. We’ve definitely come a long way from the first gigantic mainframe data centers, one can only imagine what the next 60 years of innovation will bring.

 

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