How to Speak Like a Data Center Geek

How to Speak Like a Data Center Geek: Data Center Facilities

Jim Poole
How to Speak Like a Data Center Geek: Data Center Facilities

Welcome to the latest edition of Equinix’s “How to Speak Like a Data Center Geek” series. This post aims to explain some hard-core data center terms and acronyms relating to our buildings. Study them, and soon you’ll be throwing around these terms with ease.

IBX – International Business Exchange™ – is the trademarked name Equinix uses for its 95+ data centers around the world. IBX has become synonymous with reliability, security, interconnection, network choice, digital ecosystem … just don’t try to pronounce IBX as its own word (“ibex”). No one does that.

CRAC unit – Computer Room Air Conditioning is basically an air conditioner on steroids. These massive structures are placed in the main electrical room of data centers as well as in the colocation area and are robust enough to cool even the densest computing configurations. You can pronounce this acronym as a word (“crack”), but be careful to use it in the proper context so as to not raise eyebrows.

VESDA system – Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus stops fires in a specific area before they can spread to other parts of the data center. A VESDA system features pipes installed in the ceiling of the IBX that, if smoke is detected, fill with water over the suspicious area. If the temperature in that area exceeds 160 degrees, the cap on the water sprinkler melts and the water in the pipes splash down to put out the fire. It’s best to pronounce this acronym as a word-“vesda”-to rhyme with the pretty Italian scooters.

Hot/cold aisles – Ready for a little lesson in thermodynamics? Here goes: the idea behind hot/cold aisles is to conserve energy and lower cooling costs by partitioning air flow. In a data center, computing gear is lined up in rows (or aisles) with the front sides of computing systems facing each other. These are the “cold” aisles. Chilled air is pumped through these aisles, where it’s sucked in by the air intake vents located on the face of customers’ servers and equipment. Meanwhile, the backs of customers’ machines vent out hot air into the “hot” aisles. This hot air naturally rises to exhaust systems installed in the IBX. By designating which aisles to cool and which to vent, hot and cold air are prevented from mixing, thus lowering overall cooling requirements and energy consumption. Genius, no?


HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning deal with an IBX’s thermal management, airflow, cooling and humidity control – no small feat as server density grows and heat loads climb. We recommend pronouncing the acronym as four separate letters (“h-v-a-c”) or taking a hybrid approach (“h-vac”); there’s just no pretty way to pronounce these four letters as a word.

We’ll wrap things up while you work that out. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t add that data center geeks have a thing for interconnection, since it’s essential for the enterprise to compete. Download Equinix’s IOA Playbook, which describes an interconnection-first architecture that securely connects people, locations, clouds and data.

And check out every post in the “Speak Like a Data Center Geek” series. (Please note: We welcome binge readers):

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Power I

Part 3: Connections I

Part 4: Cloud

Part 5: Buildings (see post above)

Part 6: The stuff we sell

Part 7: Security and reliability

Part 8: Connections II

Part 9: Sustainability

Part 10: Networks

Part 11: Power II

Part 12: Internet of Things

Part 13: Big Data

Part 14: Virtualization

Part 15: Virtual Reality

Part 16: Software Containers

Part 17: Artificial Intelligence

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