Tier Classification System
Uptime Institute created the standard Tier Classification System as a means to effectively evaluate data center infrastructure in terms of a business’ requirements for system availability. The Tier Classification System provides the data center industry with a consistent method to compare typically unique, customized facilities based on expected site infrastructure performance, or uptime. Furthermore, Tiers enables companies to align their data center infrastructure investment with business goals specific to growth and technology strategies.
The Data Center Site Infrastructure Tier Standard: Topology defines the requirements and benefits of four distinct Tier classifications for data center infrastructure. Each Tier aligns with a specific function in the business world and sets the appropriate criteria for power, cooling, maintenance, and capability to withstand a fault. Tiers is progressive; each Tier incorporates the requirements of all the lower Tiers. Additionally, Tiers has been demonstrated as a meaningful industry standard because Tiers allows a variety of solutions, allowing the flexiblity to meet both the performance goals and comply with local statutes, codes, and regulations. Tiers encourages innovative engineering solutions and recognizes that all data centers are not are alike and don't need to be.
Tier I and Tier II are tactical solutions, usually driven by first-cost and time-to-market more so than life-cycle cost and performance (uptime) requirements. Organizations selecting Tier I and Tier II solutions typically do not depend on real-time delivery of products or services for a significant part of their revenue stream. Generally, these organizations are contractually protected from damages stemming from lack of system availability. Rigorous uptime requirements and long-term viability are usually the reason for selecting strategic solutions found in Tier III and Tier IV site infrastructure. Tier III and Tier IV site infrastructure solutions also have an effective life beyond the current IT requirement and are typically utilized by organizations that know the cost of a disruption—in terms of actual dollars—and the impact to market share and continued mission imperatives.
Topology is the data center infrastructure and operational sustainabilty is the data center management, but both are required to achieve objectives. Operational Sustainability is defined as the behaviors and risks beyond design topology that impact the ability of a data center to meet its business objectives or mission imperatives over the long term. The Tier Standard: Operational Sustainabilty is an objective methodology for data center owners to align the facility management program with the specific Tier of installed site infrastructure in order to achieve the organization’s business objectives or mission imperatives. Tier Standard: Operational Sustainability establishes the behaviors and risks beyond the Tier Classification System (I, II, III, and IV) that impact long-term data center performance. Tier Standard: Operational Sustainability unifies site management behaviors with the Tier functionality of the site infrastructure.
Uptime Institute Tier Standard: Topology and Tier Standard: Operational Sustainability establish a consistent set of performance criteria that can be satisfied, and adjudicated, worldwide. For the data center design, implementation, and sustained operation to be successful, additional factors and exposures must also be considered by the owner and project team. Many of these will be dictated by the site location as well as local, national, or regional considerations and/or regulations. For example, building codes and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs); seismic; extreme weather (high winds, tornado); flooding; adjacent property uses; union or other organized labor force; and/or physical security (either as corporate policy or warranted by immediate surroundings).
Due to the many design and management options that may be dictated by the owner, regulated by local government, recommended by industry groups, or followed as general practice, it is not feasible for Tier Standard: Topology and Tier Standard: Operational Sustainability to establish criteria for these additional factors and exposures worldwide. And, the Uptime Institute does not wish to displace or confuse the guidance of local experts, which are key for timely project delivery, regulatory compliance, and implementation of best practices.
For a successful project, Uptime Institute recommends that the project team create a comprehensive catalogue of project requirements, which incorporates Tier Standard: Topology, Tier Standard: Operational Sustainability, and carefully considered mitigation measures of these additional factors and exposures. This approach will ensure the project meets the compliance objectives of Uptime Institute’s international standards, as well as local constraints and owner’s business case.
Tier Certification is worldwide accountability
Uptime Institute Professional Services is the only firm licensed to rate and Certify designs, constructed facilities, and ongoing operations against the Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification System and Operational Sustainability criteria. Tier Certification correlates infrastructure availability to topology. Certification provides assurances that there are not shortfalls or weak links anywhere in the data center infrastructure. There is no effective way to ensure consistency in engineering concepts at the detailed level and allow shortcuts or substitutes. The Tier Certification process was developed with the consequences of failure in mind—in terms of infrastructure investment and market perception.
The Tier Certification process seamlessly incorporates into the project schedule. Deliverables provide actionable findings as the solution develops from concept to design to implementation and into transition to operations.
- A Tier Gap Analysis will identify capital-level issues to achieving the Tier objective
- Tier Certification of Design Documents provides an in-depth review of the 100% design document package
- Tier Certification of Constructed Facility is an on-site verification of the installed infrastructure
- Tier Certification of Operational Sustainability evalutes the presence and effectiveness of management and operations
Tier Certification of Design Documents is a prerequisite for Tier Certification of Constructed Facility. Tier Certification of Constructed Facility is a prerequisite for Tier Certification of Operational Sustainability.
The current list of clients with official Tier ratings includes industry-leading organzations around the world. Click the link on the right to view the map and sort by Certification type, Tier, Client, or country.
Uptime Institute has awarded over 774 Certifications in 78 countries around the world.
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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. Read more about Tiers in the eJournal article: Explaining the Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification System.