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Standards for data centre certification. Is a changing coming?

How do we decide which data centre standard to build a new data centre to and who can certify that it meets the requirements of the standard?

There are a number of interpretations of what is known as the Tier, Rating or Class of a data centre. The aim of each of them is to classify the resilience of data centre infrastructure.

Different standards focus on different aspects of the data centre but the key criteria to focus on in terms of availability are the most critical aspects of the data centre; Power, Cooling and Communications.

The general principle is as follows;

1Enough items for the system to function
2Some redundancy in components
3Concurrent maintainability i.e. the ability to maintain any item of infrastructure without having to shut down the IT equipment.
4Automatic fault tolerance. The system continues operating in the event of a failure without human intervention.

Whilst the general principles are similar, the standards are not exactly the same as some of them are limited to only some areas of the critical infrastructure.

The three standards which are most widely discussed in relation to data centre availability are;

• ANSI/TIA-942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for data centres (Ratings)
• EN 50600 Information technology. Data centre facilities and infrastructures (Classes)
• The Uptime Institute Data Center Site Infrastructure. Tier Standard: Topology (Tiers)

EN 50600 is the most comprehensive standard as it covers all aspects of the data centre infrastructure and states availability requirements for all three critical elements including power, cooling and telecommunications infrastructure. The Uptime Institute Tier Topology focuses only on power and cooling and the TIA942 focuses on telecommunications cabling.

A comparison of the high level availability requirements of the standards in relation to power, cooling and telecommunications shows that the requirements of the different levels are essentially equivalent. In other words the highest level of availability in each standard are essentially equivalent.
This means that the choice of which standard to adopt must be based on other factors.

The Uptime Institute Tier Standard: Topology is controlled by The Uptime Institute which is a commercial business, rather than a not-for-profit national, regional or international standards organisation. The standard makes no reference to the resilience of the telecommunications infrastructure. It only focusses on power and cooling resilience and makes no comment on resource efficiency (energy and sustainability), management and operation and key performance indicators.

Although Accredited Tier Designers, such as Capitoline’s Consultants, can help design a data centre to this standard, The Uptime Institute does not allow anyone, other than themselves, to provide certification. This means that they are able to charge a premium for this service and many data centres find this too expensive. This has led many organisations to look at the other standards.

The TIA 942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers does include comments on power, cooling and telecommunications resilience in relation to Ratings but this is only in annexes which do not form part of the standard and are “informative only”. This means that the TIA 942, as its title suggests, is a telecommunications cabling standard.

The TIA 942 standard has been used for data centre assessment for organisations in America and other parts of the world. In order to carry out an availability assessment against TIA 942 including power and cooling it is necessary to rely on elements which are “informative only”.

The most comprehensive standard for data centre availability/resilience assessment would therefore appear to be EN 50600 which covers all aspects of the data centre infrastructure including Power, Cooling and Telecommunications and also provides recommendations for operations and management, security and energy and sustainability management.

Ultimately the choice of which standard to design to and assess against is often chosen based on which standard is best known in the region. For this reason EN50600 is increasingly used in Europe and TIA942 or Uptime in other regions. This is likely to change as the EN50600 standard has also been chosen by ISO (International Standards Organisation) as the basis for an ISO data centre standard.

Once the ISO standard is fully published it is likely that this will be adopted globally.

Read More about Data Centre Certification in our the whitepaper Data Centre Certification – A Comparison of Data Centre Standards.

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