Uptime Institute and TIA agree to draw a line on Tier terminology

By: Bob Landstrom

While the Uptime Institute is credited with creation of the original description of data center criticality levels in Annex-G of TIA/942, there has been much unnecessary misuse of terms between the two systems from the time of that document’s release. 

The Telecommunications Industry Association’s  (TIA) focus was on MEP topology models to set a baseline for prescribed levels of site availability performance. The Uptime Institute refined the model well beyond that simplistic reference, and assembled associated intellectual property in the process. 

Besides the Uptime Institute’s claims of proprietary rights and their continual updates of the Tier classification system over time, in the mind of the everyday end user the two references have been essentially interchangeable.

This scenario was routinely taken advantage of by marketing interests of owner/operators stretching the facts about their own data center designs in order to claim higher credentials than were likely deserved. 

Last month the Uptime Institute issued a press release saying that the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the Uptime Institute have agreed to work together to clarify confusion between the two systems.  According to the press release, TIA has agreed to drop the term “tier” in their revised TIA/942. Neither this announcement nor TIA's press release on the matter say what the new wording will be, save that the term "tier" will be "removed" in future TIA/942 document revisions.

The TIA has little to lose in this regard.  For the purposes of TIA/942, reference to the proprietary Tier standard may likely serve the needs of the document.  Furthermore, the Uptime Institute has the vested commercial interest in the Tier model and has demonstrated its commitment to drive it. For data center service providers who have been falsely claiming Tier-level compliance, the bar of accountability has been raised further, if indeed operators choose not to develop other language around the topic. For the end-user, this news will probably be met with a bit of a yawn, as any distinction between the two references has been largely regarded as just details, when “concurrently maintainable” MEP is the primary point of the discussion in the first place.

Customers of data center service providers are more sophisticated in this decade, and are seldom mislead by misuse of tier terminology as may once have been the case.  End users better understand the nuance associated with this subject, and know the right questions to ask when evaluating candidate providers, without needing help with the use of tier terminology.