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Telecommunications Data Center

Noun
|
Sounds like: "tel-e-com-mu-ni-ca-tions da-ta cen-ter"

A telecommunications (telecom) data center is a facility that is owned and operated by a telecom or service provider company such as Verizon or AT&T. As they are primarily responsible for driving content delivery and facilitating mobile and cloud services, telecom data centers require very high connectivity. This specific type of data center is connected to other data centers, cloud providers, and telecom operators through outside plant (OSP) cables, with cross-connects greatly deployed to ensure efficient operations.

Telecom data centers differ from Information Technology (IT) data centers as the network functions in telecom data centers are accommodated by multiple regions as a central data center and its regional/edge data centers. Additionally, telecom data centers are responsible for managing network resources, such as vRAN and 5G packet core while IT data centers are responsible for the IT applications used by the telecom service. While telecom data centers historically provide connectivity through a traditional and monolithic platform, they now offer a variety of services in an environment that meets the requirements for availability, scalability, security, and performance. The services/applications offered by most telecom data centers include:

  • IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS).
  • PDN and Serving Gateways.
  • Gi-LAN.
  • CDN & OTT Caching.
  • Mobile Network Monitoring.
  • Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF).
  • Voice over Wi-Fi.
  • Assurance and Insights.

Since data is growing at an exponential rate as a result of the data revolution that has facilitated smart cities, home and industry automation, over the top (OTT) services, and intelligent transportation, telecom data centers have since invested in multiple technological enhancements to increase network capacity, reduce costs, and improve versatility. To support new infrastructure, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), telecom centers are moving towards software-defined networking (SDN).

Common Challenges of Telecom Data Center Management

While telecommunications operators historically operated without traditional data centers, data centers have since become an integral part of telecommunications due to the extensive amount of information that is transferred daily.

However, there are several common challenges of managing a telecom data center.

  • Complexity and operational efficiency. Since technology is constantly evolving, it may become difficult for telecommunications companies to operate their own data centers as it is not their specialty. The data center will be the non-core aspect of the company, so the telecom company may struggle to achieve significant scale benefits or operational efficiency.
  • Uncertain telecom data center needs. The restructuring of IT infrastructure, along with the drastic shift to cloud and edge computing, has made it difficult for telecom companies to forecast their data center needs based on the amount of electric power or space needed. While an estimation of needed capacity may be sufficient for a period of time, it is likely that this capacity will change based on social and technological trends. Therefore, telecom companies may need a data center with more flexible capacity, making renting established data centers on a need-basis a more plausible option than owning the infrastructure themselves.
  • Shifts in data center technology. While data centers are a critical operation for telecom companies, they are not a core operation. There is significant unpredictability associated with constant disruptions in technology, especially as it pertains to the cloud and IT value chains. Telecom data center specialists must be equipped with the knowledge and resources to adapt to these disruptions.

A Telecom Data Center Designed for the Future

Telecommunications providers have a growing need to accommodate the rise of 5G network and are competing to be the primary driver of network transformation and service revolution. To meet 5G requirements, providers must transform their service infrastructure to facilitate a high data rate, ultra-low latency, and massive machine-type communication. This is primarily done by incorporating software-defined networking (SDN) architecture within the facility to control or program the network using software. It allows for improved efficiency as managers can manage the entire network on a holistic basis regardless of the underlying network technology.

Characteristics of a telecom data center designed to accommodate future technological developments include:

  • Underlay and overlay network. The SDN fabric is responsible for decoupling the underlay network, which provides the connectivity between the fabric’s network elements, and the overlay network, which ensures connectivity between the workloads. An effective overlay solution reduces the inter-dependency between the network configuration and services that run on top of it.
  • Operation simplification. The SDN fabric should also be designed to proactively find faults, troubleshoot, and perform regular operations on the network. The SDN controller provides analytics and visibility of network health and is designed to provide real time metrics related to latency details, atomic counters, and consumption statistics.
  • Integrated security. Security is one of the key aspects of a telecom data center, and the SDN fabric must be able to limit the surface attack by implementing permit-list policies. This model ensure that only trusted traffic can flow within the applications.
  • Edge data center. Edge data center architecture is often used for small-scale platforms where it is normally deployed in the remote area as an extension of the regional data center. Having compute power at the edge allows for faster performance and lower latency as the data does not have to be moved a long distance to be processed.
  • Service chaining. Service chaining is an important use case in modern telecom data centers as it moves traffic through a chain of devices before it exits the data center. It helps to automate traffic flow between services in a virtual network and optimizes the use of network resources to improve application performance by using the optimal routing path.

Telecom Data Centers and Direct Current Power

While most traditional data center use alternating current (AC) power distribution systems, telecom data centers run on direct current (DC) power.

Telecom data centers get power from the utility in AC and convert it to DC using rectifiers which also charge their battery. DC power then goes to the battery distribution circuit breaker bay (BDCBB) which transmits the power to servers placed in racks either directly or via fuse alarm panels.

When there is a power interruption or disturbance, the DC-charged batteries are used for backup power without the need for conversion.

The benefits of using DC power in a telecom data center include:

  • Less complex. Less data center space and equipment are required than AC power. The simpler design eliminates the need for phase load balancing.
  • Less space costs. Since DC power equipment takes up less space, it’s smaller footprint results in less costs.
  • Power quality. Power quality and power less is more favorable with DC power compared to AC. There is no loss of power that happens every time AC power changes directions.
  • Modular and scalable. By adding more battery strings, DC power systems can easily be built and expanded over time as the load increases. Energy storage devices like batteries can be added as needed.
  • Integration with other sources. DC power systems can be easily integrated with sources like solar panels and fuel cells.
  • Longer runtime. The runtime provided by batteries is greater than that of a UPS for the same load.

Simplify Telecom Data Center Management with DCIM Software

To manage their DC power infrastructure, modern telecom data center managers leverage Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software. DCIM software can fully support direct current power chain objects such as fuse alarm panels, battery distribution bays, battery distribution circuit breakers, battery distribution fuse bays, rectifiers, and compute devices including servers, blade chassis, and telecom gear.

With DCIM, you can fully build out your power path to track capacities and utilization at every point including breakers and batteries. DCIM enables rich 3D visualization for easy tracing of problems and provides useful reporting capabilities such as “what is connected to any object in the power path?” so that you can understand redundancies and contact users during maintenance periods.

Want to see how Sunbird’s world-leading DCIM solution can help you optimize your telecommunications data center operations? Get your free test drive now!

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WORD OF THE DAY:

Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC)
A software-defined data center (SDDC) is a facility in which all the infrastructure, such as networking, storage, and compute, is virtualized and delivered as a service.
Learn even more about this term