A data centre is a facility composed of networked computers and storage that businesses or other organisations use to organise, process, store and disseminates large amounts of data. A business typically relies heavily on the applications, services and data contained within a data centre, making it a focal point and critical asset for everyday operations.
Data centres are not a single thing, but rather, a conglomeration of elements. At a minimum, data centres serve as the principal repositories for all manner of IT equipment, including servers, storage subsystems, networking switches, routers and firewalls, as well as the cabling and physical racks used to organise and interconnect the IT equipment.
A data centre must also contain an adequate infrastructure, such as power distribution and supplemental power subsystems, including electrical switching; uninterruptible power supplies; backup generators and so on; ventilation and data centre cooling systems, such as computer room air conditioners; and adequate provisioning for network carrier connectivity.
Data centres are increasingly implementing private cloud software, which builds on virtualization to add a level of automation, user self-service and billing/chargeback to data centre administration. The goal is to allow individual users to provision workloads and other computing resources on-demand, without IT administrative intervention.
It is also increasingly possible for data centres to interface with public cloud providers. Platforms such as Microsoft Azure emphasise the hybrid use of local data centers with Azure or other public cloud resources. The result is not an elimination of data centers, but rather, the creation of a dynamic environment that allows organizations to run workloads locally or in the cloud or to move those instances to or from the cloud as desired.