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Data Centre Classifications

by John Herbert | Director

We are often asked about compliance, particularly data centre classification and standards, therefore we have create this page to help explain the data centre standards and classifications.


Considering the number of BS,EN, ISO, DN standards from around the world you might have thought it would be easy to find one standard to apply to data centre facilities. In fact a standard, or perhaps more accuracy a classification system is a recent innovation, and some argue we still don't have one. 

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The problem stemmed from different organsations claiming certain facilities were "state of the art" facilities, etc. whereas in fact Data Centre facilities range from the server closet to floors of mainframes means it is complex, and as it turns out not so easy to classify.

This resulted in organisations such as banks, investment banks, and other institutions created an in-house standard many of which are still in use today.  An in-house standard is fine for internal communication purposes, where everyone has access to the standard, but how do you benchmark your facility against another ? How do you persuade those outside the organisation that your facility is state of the art, has redundancy, dual power, UPS, etc.? Was it state of the art in 1970 or 2000? 

What the industry really needed was one standard to measure every facility, and a standard by which facilities could then be benchmarked, checked and audited.

At the time of writing there are two standards or classification systems. Tier 1- IV formalized by the Uptime Institute, and TAI 942. Both standards are weightily documents, so it beyond the scope of this brief article to review each one in detail. However, now we have open standards so all facilities can be benchmarked, checked and independently audited.

Tier I-IV

The Uptime Institute, USA (www.uptime.org) created or perhaps formalized is a better term the Tier I-IV classification for data centre facilities. I should declared that Kelcroft Director John Herbert is a member of the Uptime Institute. 

Tier 1 is the lowest standard, gradually adding more redundancy until we reach the highest level Tier IV with the most redundancy. It covers the critical services, there is no requirement for redundant FM200 systems in this classification system.

The Uptime Institute frown upon abuse of their classification. For example you might find Tier 3+. However Uptime Institute categorically state No Tier 3+ category exists, either you met and exceed Tier 3 or you dont.

It critics point to the fact that this standard doesn't actually cover operations. However, we have to look at this in context, at the time it was a huge leap forward compared to the previous state of affairs.

data centre classification

There was also some industry confusion regarding who was actually entitled to check and label a data centre as Tier 1,2,3, or 4. 

One important recommendation followed, the Uptime Institute recommend that every Data centre facility is independently audited annually.

TIA 942

TIA (Telecommunication Industry Association) standard TIA-942 is the defacto telecommunications industry standard for a data centers covering both design and installation of data centre facilities.

For the data centre (data center) E&M infrastructure, 942 is largely based on the Uptime Institute Tier I-IV classification. As one might expect it expanded upon telecommunications matters, including accommodation for service providers, meet rooms, MDF (Main Distribution Frame), MDA (Main Distribution Area), HZA (horizontal zone areas) VDA (vertical distribution areas) and general IT cabling provisions.

Kelcroft Services

Kelcroft provides a full range of expert, tailor made services for the data centre space including data centre planning, design, infrastructure, and assessment services, which evaluate the E&M infrastructure and environment to optimize the use of your resources, helping you make informed decisions.

Kelcroft's wealth of whitespace experience in the data centre and IT sector helps ensure that your facility meets your current, and future requirements. We have created a number of data centre services and solutions to help you sleep easy, it helps you because we speak your language.

Further Information

For further information regarding data centre services including design, auditing, and planning the migration of your Mission Critical facilities contact the experts, call Mr. John Herbert at our Hong Kong office or email us today.

Keywords: data centre classifications, data centre standards