Data center facilities pro

May 4 2009   11:18PM GMT

Uptime Institute to open up data center tier standards

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio


The Uptime Institute plans to open up its data center availability tier standards, with two programs catered toward end users and design engineers.

The Uptime tiers have become the de facto standard for availability in the data center industry. The system includes four tiers that escalate in availability as the number increases, with Tier 4 being completely fault tolerant. Uptime has tried to rein in the standards, as many data centers have claimed a certain tier availability without official certification from Uptime. On the other side, some have questioned the relevancy of the tier standards, saying that putting them to practical use can be as difficult as solving the Da Vinci Code.

The first program Uptime will announce tomorrow is the Owners Advisory Committee, a program that could lead to changes within the decade-old tier system itself. The committee will consist of data center end users who are Uptime Institute Site Uptime Network members, and will make annual recommendations on how to update the tier system.

Currently there are about 30 companies that have agreed to be part of the committee, Uptime Institute officials said. They expect there to be many more. Hank Seader, an Uptime consultant who helped develop the tier system, mentioned two issues in particular that he expected to pop up in the committee’s infancy. First, he expects there to be a further refining of Tier 1 that differentiates a non-redundant data center from a server closet or a desktop with a bunch of servers on it. Next, he expects the group to recommend changes that better define what components should be redundant in a Tier 2 data center.

The committee will make recommendations primarily through a Web-based forum. From that forum issues will emerge, and then the committee will make a formal recommendation to Uptime through a voting process.

“Right now the idea is that they’ll make the recommendation, and it will be the current tier certifying authorities deciding how it will go into the standard,” Seader said.

There is more information at Uptime’s Owner Advisory Committee site. Though it doesn’t cost extra to be a part of the committee, you must be a Site Uptime Network member to join the committee. Membership costs $12,000 a year, according to the Site Uptime Network’s call for new members.

Secondly, Uptime will announce tomorrow an accreditation course for certified engineers on the tier standards. The two-day course will take place quarterly throughout the country, with the first two scheduled to take place in September in Denver, and the third in Dallas, likely in December. The course will cost $5,000. There’s more information at the Accredited Tier Designer site.

Seader said these will be detailed, technically heavy courses on practically applying the tier standards to real data centers. There will be seven sessions: overview, mechanical infrastructure, electrical infrastructure, ancillary systems (such as water and backup fuel, for example), common disqualifying design omissions, a hands-on group exercise, and the exam.

Julian Kudritzki, vice president of development and operations for Uptime’s professional services division, said the courses will give accredited engineers an advantage as they’ll have an “enhanced understanding of the tier classification standards, and it will be a competitive differentiator for them when they respond to RFPs that have a clear tier design goal aspect to them.”

Perhaps just as importantly, Uptime is moving toward opening the certification process up to outside engineers. Currently only members of Uptime’s professional services division can certify data centers as having a certain tier level. Seader said he foresees a time when engineers who have taken the accreditation course could certify data centers with a certain tier level.

“I anticipate that in three to five years – closer to three – that there will be tier certification authorities outside of The Uptime Institute,” Seader said.

I’m going to try to talk to Site Uptime Network members as well as Uptime critics and have a more fleshed-out story later this week, so stay tuned.

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