How are data centers shown in movies and what do they look like in real life? 6 examples from movies and TV shows

Silicon Valley

About what?

→ This is a comedy series about a team of IT-specialists who dream of changing the world with their innovative ideas and launching the Pied Piper startup.

Frame from the TV series “Silicon Valley” / 2014

What does the data center look like in the series?

A spacious hangar without windows, in which identical racks are installed in even rows, close to each other. Each consists of several slots, they offer to install “boxes” – servers there.

What’s wrong?

In general, the concept of the data center is respected: we, as viewers, see a specially equipped room that contains equipment, order reigns and multi-colored lights flash.

We highlight three important points. The first is about client equipment. If different companies host their own servers in this data center (like our heroes from the series), then the content of the racks, due to the difference in hardware and its connection, would look more motley.

The second is about the logic of placing the racks: in the series, they stand close. However, it is important that engineers have access from both sides. Wires are connected from one side, and on and off buttons, disk baskets are located on the other.

The third nuance is that in a real data center it is always very noisy. Servers and service systems for the data center (cooling, power supply, and others) work there 24/7. For this reason, it is not easy to conduct a dialogue in such a room – you have to raise your voice in order to tell at least something to the person standing next to you.

Main character (Free Guy)

About what?

→ This is a movie about the life of an NPC – a non-player character in an online multiplayer role-playing game, who once realized himself, fell in love and broke the given algorithm. He left his unloved job at the bank, hacked into the villain’s hideout and, as expected by the laws of the genre, saved the world of his game.

Shot from the film “Protagonist” / 2021

What does a data center look like in a movie?

A dark large room with an ominous blue backlight and colored light bulbs. Racks are installed at the walls on both sides, colored wires stick out.

Due to the fact that the main villain breaks some of the servers with an ax, the equipment sparks and smokes, pieces of equipment are lying on the floor.

What’s wrong?

Outwardly, the picture looks plausible, but there is something to complain about. For example, to the ventilation system – holes in the floor, located far from the server racks, are striking.

“This is not the best solution in terms of equipment cooling efficiency. After all, if the hole is far away, the cold air that enters from below will not be delivered targeted – without a “roof” of the cold corridor, most of it will pass by.”

Vladimir Turov
Developer. Previously worked in a data center.

Another nuance is too cinematic sparks at the moment when the hero smashes the server room with an ax.

“A short circuit leads to sparks and a lot of heat, so a fire can start. This is a very dangerous situation for a server room. To prevent this from happening and there is no load on the power grid, the machines turn off the rack, and the equipment stops working,” says Vladimir Turov.

Geeks (The IT Crowd)

About what?

→ This is a sitcom that tells about the work of a technical support team in a fictional British corporation and the eternal battle of IT people‎ with the rest of the departments.

Frame from the series “Computers” / 2006

What does the data center look like in the series?

The series does not show a full-fledged data center, but a small server room in a dim basement. It has several monolithic racks, more like a refrigerator box. There are two large air vents above the equipment.

What’s wrong?

The designation of a server room as a location in the series is very conditional – the level of detail of computers and racks is minimal. It’s basically a big box with flashing red and green lights.

Another important point is the absence of wires in the frame. Of course, they can be skillfully hidden or summed up from under the floor, but at least a little should be present.

The rest – cold, air conditioning and subdued light – conditionally corresponds to the concept.

Agent 007: Skyfall Coordinates

About what?

→ This is one of the films of the movie saga about the famous spy, which was released in 2012. Due to a data breach at a British agency, the hero is tasked with fixing the problem. He sets off in pursuit and experiences a crisis of confidence in leadership and job choice.

What does a data center look like in a movie?

A spacious room with high windows, in which there are computers and several racks, thickly wrapped with wires.

Frame from the film “Agent 007: Skyfall Coordinates” / 2012

What’s wrong?

This reference bears little resemblance to a real data center. There are many problems, we will list the obvious ones.

First, the racks seem to be empty of equipment. One gets the feeling that these are scattered parts of old telephone exchanges, and not a place to host servers.

Secondly, a large number of wires. Of course, in reality there can also be many of them, but they must be ordered.

Thirdly, the problem is sunlight. Because of it, the temperature in the room will rise and you need to spend more effort and resources on cooling systems.

last minister

About what?

→ Another comedy series in our selection. He tells about a Moscow official who runs the Ministry of Advanced Planning and, together with a motley team, is trying to solve the problems of the country.

Frame from the series “The Last Minister” / 2022

What does the data center look like in the series?

Externally, the data center building looks phantasmagoric – it is a tower that can be easily imagined in the scenery of films about space travel or on a computer strategy map.

Inside – a completely different alignment: real racks and network equipment are shown.

What’s wrong?

According to the movement of the camera, one gets the feeling that the racks are set crookedly. Usually they stand in even rows, as, for example, in Silicon Valley‎, and they are twisted together for reliability.

Another important nuance is the large distance between the equipment.

“Because of the gaps, cold air disperses and does not cool the servers as efficiently. As a result, some of the resources are wasted.

Vladimir Turov
Developer. Previously worked in a data center

Tron: Legacy

About what?

→ This is a film about the cyber universe, risk and gladiator fights, and also about the relationship between father and son.

What does a data center look like in a movie?

The film shows the data center of the future. We don’t know what server rooms will look like in a few centuries, so let’s share our assumptions and fantasies on the topic.

Frame from the movie “Tron: Legacy” / 2010

What’s wrong?

Out of sight of the cooling system and power supply: it is not clear how the ventilation and connection to the network are arranged. But, since this is the future, you can imagine that the servers are independently cooled and produce energy (the latter – to be non-volatile).

We also do not see wires – perhaps wireless technologies have won in this universe. In addition, it is not clear how the technicians of the future will find the right equipment: before us are numerous rows of completely identical machines.

→ About how Selectel data centers look and work, show and tell in a video tour.

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