Tier Standard

Is there really a difference between a data center that claims to be "N+1" and one that has a Tier certification?

Tier IIIAny time you're choosing between one vendor and another, whether you're buying airline tickets or hosting space, you need to know if there's someone, besides the vendor, who stands behind that service. Most people wouldn't get on an airplane if there were no third-party auditing of safety, maintenance and the pilot's capabilities.

Without qualified third-party review, who catches the design flaws and single points of failure in a data center's power infrastructure? Unfortunately for those who select uncertified data centers, these single-points-of-failure are discovered by hundreds or thousands of customers at the same time, when the center goes down.

We collect outage reports from the news and sites like Data Center Knowledge. There are data centers that you'll easily recognize on the outage report. Some of them with several outages within a year, or even within a week's time.

Is there a logical justification for a data center vendor to reassure customers after an outage that does not include a commitment to obtain certification by The Uptime Institute?

Consider that data centers cost tens of millions to build. Should anyone invest millions in a data center and then decide against a certification process that a) will catch any design oversights and b) clearly communicate capabilities to prospective customers when the cost of certification is only a small fraction of this investment? Perhaps vendors that have cut corners, or are uncertain that their facility would certify at the level they would like customers to assume would resist certification.

Julian Kudritzki, VP of Development & Operations for The Uptime Institute, shares that in December two established data centers, which had both long claimed Tier IV, "or close to it," went through the certification process. Both of these data centers received a Tier I certification, which they both chose not to publish.

Julian indicates that many more data centers go through the certification process than publish their results. If the costs of leasing space in a facility with a certified design, such as OnePartner's ATAC data center, were more costly than space in an uncertified data center, companies would need to evaluate the actual needs of their applications. While few companies would eagerly sacrifice uptime, a substantial price difference might require a trade-off. However, when OnePartner offers rates that match or beat competitive rates, the trade-off is unnecessary.

Why would any company choose a less reliable vendor who provided lower rates?

If you're selecting a data center, you need to understand the Tier classification system.

White paper: "Data Center Site Infrastructure Tier Standard: Topology" (PDF)This white paper is authored by The Uptime Institute. It provides an essential overview of the Tier classifications and addresses some common misconceptions.