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Data Center Evolution

Last month marked our 20th year of being in business. We have been very fortunate and very grateful to be part of an industry so dynamic and full of opportunity as the Data-Com Industry.† As I look back I find it fascinating that a lot of the technology products we are selling today had not been invented when we opened our doors.† For many industries, that would be considered quite unusual or even a bit unnerving, but for the computer industry, it is considered normal. One area of radical change is the data center.† A part of our business from the very start was the selling of parts and pieces for these centers.† Twenty years ago, data centers in some of the larger corporations took up quite a bit of floor space relative to the amount of processing power they provided.† They consisted of a mainframe computer system or several minicomputer systems that connected to dumb-terminals distributed throughout the corporate offices.† Cables were often big, clunky Buss & Tag system, Coax, or RS-232 serial designs. The data centers usually had raised floors, and they maintained temperatures cold enough to be used for a meat locker.† To make things a bit more complicated, there were a number of different types of computer networks being used, such as Arcnet and Token Ring.† As technology progressed, the microcomputer became more and more powerful, fit in a smaller space, and soon out performed many physically larger predecessors.† Eventually the microcomputer was deemed adequate to replace minicomputers and mainframes.† Microcomputer servers were built to be the processing and data storage workhorse in the data center.† Over time these servers were further enhanced with multiple processors, hard drive arrays, and redundant power supplies, all in a package that continued to shrink.† Some newer designs used a concept called blade server.† In this design the server is on a card (or blade) that, along with a number of other blade servers, plugs into a common chassis or frame, thus providing a lot of processing power in a very compact space. This evolution is still an ongoing process.† The biggest problem for many data centers today seems to be the handling of power requirements and keeping the equipment cool.† As the cost of energy rises, companies are not only looking for ways to provide adequate energy, but they are also looking for ways to lower their energy usage.† Emerging technology is helping to rein in that energy consumption, and it is accomplishing that monumental task in an environmentally friendly manner. Today we are still selling parts and pieces for data centers, but most of those parts have changed radically during this evolution.† Even the cables have evolved to fiber optic or high speed copper with speeds reaching 10 gig or more. You donít see much RS-232 or Buss & Tag any more.† The Bus & Tag Channel was the common name for the parallel channel between mainframes and peripherals. †One set of cables carried the data (the bus), and another set was for control information (the tag). †It incorporated copper multiwire technology and has been replaced in new data centers by an ESCON type configuration.† Enterprise System Connection (ESCON) Channel is now widely used for attaching mainframes to peripherals. Many people reading this article are very familiar with modern data centers, but perhaps younger readers are not familiar with that Buss & Tag technology.† I guess I'm showing my age. †-Larry