26 Feb 2008

26 Feb 2008

Are the Uptime Institute’s Data Center Rating Tiers Out of Date?

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Category: data center design, tier performance standards, uptime institute

Let me start by saying I have the utmost respect for the Uptime Institute’s Pitt Turner, P.E., John Seader, P.E., and Ken Brill and the work they have done furthering the cause of providing some standards to an otherwise standard-less subject like data center design. However, as a data center designer I feel their definitive work, Tier Classifications Define Site Infrastructure Performance, has passed its prime.

The Institute’s systems have been in use since 1995, which is positively ancient in the world of IT.

In its latest revision, the Uptime Institute’s Tier Performance Standards morphed from a tool for IT and corporate decision makers to consider the differences between different data center investments into a case study for consulting services pushing for certification against their standard.

While the data their standard is based upon has been culled from real client experiences, the analysis of the data has been interpreted by only one expert company, ComputerSite Engineering which works in close collaboration with the Uptime Institute. Surely, the standard could be vastly improved with the outside opinion and influence of many of the, just as expert, data center design firms that exist.

Case in point, the Uptime Institute has repeatedly defended the notion that there is no such thing as a partial tier conforming site (Tier 1+, almost Tier III, etc.). They argue that the rating is definitive and to say such things is a misuse of the rating guide. While I understand the argument that a site is only as good as its weakest link, to say that a site incorporating most, but not all of the elements of the tier definition is mathematically and experientially wrong.

PTS’ actual experiences bear this out. Our clients that have all the elements of a Tier II site, except for the second generator, are clearly better than those with no UPS and/or air conditioning redundancy (Tier I). Therefore, if not for Tier I+, how do they suggest to account for the vast realization between the real availability of the two sites?

It is interesting that most data center consulting, design, and engineering companies nationwide utilize elements of the white paper as a communications bridge to the non-facility engineering community, but not as part of their design process. In fact, most have developed and utilize their own internal rating guides.

While I will continue to utilize their indisputable expertise as a part of my own interpretation in directing PTS’ clients with their data center investment decisions, I suggest that clients would be wise not put all of their eggs in the Institute’s basket at this point in time.

What is your outlook on the Uptime Institute’s Tier Performance Standards? Is the four-tier perspective outdated or is it still a meaningful industry standard?

Comments (8)

  1. chuck goolsbee on 26th Feb 2008

    The ratings are a theoretical lens with which to view reality, much like the OSI model of a network stack. Very few network protocols fall perfectly within the OSI’s seven layers, but does that render the model out of date?

    No.

    They can define the tiers but reality is hardly ever going to fall strictly within tier boundaries, therefore partial conforming will be the rule, rather than the exception. If the Uptime Institute doesn’t like it, that is THEIR problem. They can only define the model, not dictate reality in a market driven world.

    This does not mean the model itself is out of date though.

    Human beings accept the compromise between desire and budget every hour of every day. That doesn’t change when the time comes to pick or build their datacenter. Models need hard definitions and delineations, reality however is often comfortable with blurred lines and partial conformance.

    –chuck
    http://chuck.goolsbee.org

  2. Frank on 28th Feb 2008

    Interesting points. The main issue with the Uptime Institute doesn’t seem to be whether the tier standards are relevant, but that the Institute refuses to acknowledge wiggle room for real life interpretations of their tier models. Not every data center fits into their neat little boxes.

  3. Pete Sacco on 28th Feb 2008

    Thanks to both Frank and Chuck for their comments. Regardless of the somewhat negative sound of my title, I agree the Tiers are still clearly relevant albeit not exactly reflective of actual conditions. They will continue to serve as an excellent guideline for planning and comparing availability.

    – Pete Sacco

  4. Anonymous on 12th Mar 2008

    Good afternoon. My company manufactures flexible power cable and I would like to sell it to the data center market. Can anyone help me with this venture?
    I would greatly appreciate any help.

    Very best regards,
    Tom Stone
    toms@cobrawire.com

  5. shaun_jsmith on 16th Sep 2008

    Regarding the original and following comments about TUI’s Tier Rating….good comments but our solution was to develop our own tool that maps a more indepth and realistic rating structure based on the existing tier methodology that gives us both the TUI’s rating system with an integrated rated focus on reality i.e. engineering.

  6. Peter on 19th Sep 2008

    I would love to learn more about your system. Perhaps we can compare notes. You show me yours and I will show you mine, so to speak 🙂
    – Pete Sacco

  7. Steven on 15th Oct 2008

    Facility planners and operations managers who have worked with large telecom carriers are familiar with these principles, and the specific rating criteria, through NEBS and other comprehensive standards.

    However, there are far fewer date centre designers or operators in other industries who have access to the telco standards, so the ratings are very helpful as guidelines that are more readily available to a wide audience.

    As helpful as the guidelines are, I would agree that a rigid adherence to the specific list of requirements for each tier limits the usefulness of the system

  8. vinod on 27th Jul 2009

    would you suggest me the all the essential requirements for a data centre with a capacity of 24 nos of 42u racks

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