Data centers strive for providing fast, uninterrupted service. Equipment failure, communication or power outages, network congestion and other problems that keep people from accessing their data and applications have to be dealt with immediately. Due to the constant demand for instant access, data centers are expected to run 24/7, which creates a host of issues.
A data center's network needs are vastly different from those of, say, an office building full of workers. Data center networks are powerhouses. Google's fiber optic networks send data as much as 200,000 times faster than your home Internet service. But then, Google has to handle over 3 billion search engine requests daily, index many billions of Web pages, stream millions of YouTube videos and handle and store e-mail for hundreds of millions of users, among its many other services [source: Levy].
Hardly anyone has as much traffic as Google, but all data centers will likely see more and more usage. They need the ability to scale up their networks to increase bandwidth and maintain reliability. The same goes for the servers, which can be scaled up to increase the capacity of the data center. The existing network needs to be able to handle congestion by controlling flow properly. And anything that is holdling up flow needs to be rooted out. A network will only be as fast as its slowest component. Service level agreements (SLAs) with customers also have to be met, and often include things like throughput and response time.
There are a number of points of possible failure. Servers or networking equipment can go out, cables can go bad or services coming in from the outside, like power and communication, can be disrupted. Systems need to be in place to monitor for, respond to, and notify staff of any issues that arise.Disaster recovery planning is of vital importance in case of major failures, but the minor problems have to be handled, as well.