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A data center (also called a server farm or computer center) is

a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems.
[a] physical facility used for the storage and processing of large volumes of data. A data centre can be used solely by users belonging to a single enterprise or shared among multiple enterprises as in cloud computing data centres. A data centre can be stationary or mobile (e.g., housed in a cargo container transported via ship, truck, or aircraft).[1]

Office of Management and Budget[]

A data center is

a room that is greater than 500 square feet, that is used for processing or storing data, and that meets stringent availability requirements.[2]
a closet, room, floor or building for the storage, management, and dissemination of data and information and [used to house] computer systems and associated components, such as database, application, and storage systems and data stores [excluding facilities exclusively devoted to communications and network equipment (e.g., telephone exchanges and telecommunications rooms)]. A data center generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls . . . and special security devices housed in leased, . . . owned, collocated, or stand-alone facilities.[3]


A typical data center is a large, warehouse‐like building on a concrete slab the size of a few football fields. It is located with good access to cheap electric power and to a fiber‐optic, Internetbackbone connection, usually in a rural or isolated area. The typical center consumes 20‐40 megawatts of power (the equivalent of a city with 20,000‐40,000 residents) and today houses some tens of thousands of servers and hard‐disk drives, totaling some tens of petabytes. Worldwide, there are roughly 6,000 data centers of this scale, about half in the United States.


  1. Tallinn Manual, at 211.
  2. Data Center Consolidation: Agencies Making Progress on Efforts, but Inventories and Plans Need to Be Completed, at 2.
  3. Implementation Guidance for the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.


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