[EN] Explaining the Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification System
Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification System for data centers is approaching the two decade mark. Since its creation in the mid-1990s, the system has evolved from a shared industry terminology into the global standard for third-party validation of data center critical infrastructure.
Over the years, some industry pundits have expressed frustration with the Tier System for being confusing. In many cases these writers have misrepresented the purpose and purview of the program.
Invariably, these authors and interview subjects have never been involved with a Tier Certification project. Typically, the commentator’s understanding of the Tiers is entirely secondhand and ten years out of date. And yet, when a commentator manages “1 million square feet of data center space for a large multinational enterprise” and represents a respected organization like AFCOM, we feel the need to respond.
I would like to take this opportunity to explain what the Tiers look like today, illustrate how Tier Certification works, list some companies that have invested in Tier Certification and offer Uptime Institute’s vision for the future.
Data center infrastructure costs and operational complexities increase with Tier Level, and it is up to the data center owner to determine the Tier Level that fits his or her business’s need. A Tier IV solution is not “better” than a Tier II solution. The data center infrastructure needs to match the business application, otherwise companies can overinvest or take on too much risk.
The Tier Classification System does not prescribe specific technology or design criteria.
Uptime Institute removed reference to “expected downtime per year” from the Tier Standard in 2009. The current Tier Standard does not assign availability predictions to Tier Levels.
Some organizations were willfully misrepresenting the Tier Certification, using a design foil to market a site that was not physically tested to that standard.
The TCDD was never supposed to be a final stage in a certification process, but rather a checkpoint for companies to demonstrate that the first portion of the capital project met requirements. Uptime Institute found that stranded Design Certifications were detrimental to the integrity of the Tier Certification program. In response, Uptime Institute has implemented an expiration date on TCDDs. All Tier Certification of Design Documents awards issued after 1 January 2014 will expire two years after the award date.
For companies with existing sites, or for whatever reason have not chosen to certify data center facilities against Tiers, the operations team can be certified under the Management & Operations (M&O) Stamp of Approval. By covering essential areas, a management team can operate a site to its full uptime potential, obtain maximum leverage of the installed infrastructure/design and improve the efficacy of operations.