Isn't it too late to build a data center?

Posted on 2019-10-09 by ungleich

The very valid question, isn't it too build a data center? was asked on Twitter and it made our team here in Glarus smile a lot, and we decided to write a blog article about this question.

Fiber = the advantage of a data center?

According to the tweet, the main strength of a data center is fast network connection, or the fiber line that you have. And nowadays, everyone has fast fiber, so it follows that data centers are maybe not needed anymore.


It is not that easy.

How to run a data center in reality

Some time ago we wrote about How to run a really green data center. Admittedly, the question was not about running a green data center, so let's dive a bit more into it.

Running a data center like we do at Data Center Light does indeed require a fiber connection. To be precise, actually a couple.

How much fiber is enough fiber?

Don't tell anyone, but geeks are working at ungleich. And according to geeks, there is never enough fiber. But for real, how much fiber is needed? In our case, running a data center at 3 different locations, requires a couple of dark fiber lines and a couple of redundant upstream connections. Using the rule of thumb, let's say we need at least 3 fiber connections:

  • One for location A
  • One for location B
  • One to connect locations A and B

So are three fiber connections enough?

What is actually in a data center?

Maybe the real question is, why would you run a data center at all? Alright, for the geeks of us, "just because I can" is a reason, but let's think about other cases as well. For instance we are running a data center, because we our customers asked us to run one (easy, isn't it?). So some years ago we started buying hardware like switches, servers, SSDs, cables, transceivers, disks, network cards, access points and even much, much more cables.

And why did we do that? Because we were asked to host virtual machines and data for our existing customers. So if you want to run a data center, you also need a bit of hardware.

And there comes one of the bigger problems: hardware also needs to be turned on. And if it is on, it actually consumes energy and you do not proper fuses. Not only the ones inside the data center, but also the ones going into the building!

So what do you need to run a data center?

So to run a data center, you need at least

  • enough power (best to be 100% renewable here!)
  • enough network capacity
  • enough space

These are the three base ingredients for a data center. Then the only thing that is left, like for every good menu, is a chef. And in case of a data center, the chef is the team running it. The team that is available all the time, that fixes the network, replaces the disks and servers, etc.

Too late or not too late? To be or not to be?

We would like to rephrase the question a bit, because we actually think the notion of the question was more: Does it make sense to start a new data center TODAY? So what is the answer to this seemingly easy to answer question? Does it make sense or not? We want to answer with a crystal clear yes-and-no answer.

Yes, build a new data center today

We encourage everyone to actually build their own data center. Get some IPv6 space to your home, get a bit of equipment. Even get some servers. Maybe even some ARM servers to save some energy for a change?

Build it, like it, maybe even fail at it. It is a great experience to build your own. We strongly believe into decentralisation, so we encourage distributing the Internet more to different places.

Put all the fun stuff on it. Put your development on it. Don't forget to backup your stuff to somewhere else, though.

We even invite you to join our chat to ask about how to build a data center and we are more than happy to share our experiences.

No, don't build a new data center today

If you start fresh and you are not with an experienced team and you want to offer services to other people, we dis-recommend building a data center on your own. Taking the responsibility to run things even when you are sick, even when you want to go to holidays, even if it is 3am is not very healthy if you are not a team that works well together.

If you think that the world is already well off with Amazon and co., it is also not a good idea to build one yourself. You need to be able to stay in the business even though you get questions like "But I can put everything to Amazon - why does it need you?"

Does fiber at home make data centers redundant?

And to answer the other implicit question asked: we think that fiber at home actually enables the use of data centers better. So far if your connection was slow, you had to have all your data locally. With fiber at home, you can store your data anywhere (you probably shouldn't, but that is a topic for a different post) and access it quickly.

More of it?

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can always get in touch with us as follows: