The Need for A New Data Centre Design Standard


8 March 2016

Alongside the existing “fixed harness” availability standards, the data centre industry needs a more inclusive and flexible classification standard that can account for visionary designs that leverage resilience, sustainability and efficiency. The industry and the environment will benefit from an open-source and flexible classification model that will enable all data centre stakeholders to drive innovation towards more sustainable data centre design.

Data centre design, build and operational standards were pioneered by organisations such as the UI, TIA and BICSI approximately twenty years ago (e.g. BICSI 0-3 and Uptime Tier I to IV). The simplicity and clarity of these standards have made them the data centre industry’s design reference points.
Typically these standards are structured on 4 progressive classes, only covering traditional designs based on redundant diesel generators and UPSs. Ranked for performance and uptime, each class incorporates the requirements of the previous class:

  • Basic non redundant: capacity requirements for a dedicated data centre site
  • Basic redundant: capacity components that increase data centre availability
  • Concurrent maintainable: increased level of redundancy which enables the data centre subsystems to continue operating while subsystem components are being replaced or maintained
  • Fault-tolerant: data centre with fully redundant subsystems

The simple and clear structure of these standards have served the industry well over the past two decades but now we are at the point of change. By virtue of their fixed harness per design these standards do not stimulate data center design innovation, whilst innovation is key to increase data center industry sustainability. In addition, an increasing number of data centres in operation or under construction cannot be classified using the traditional standards. Three frequently-used types of unclassified designs are:

  1. Designs exclusively using alternative energy sources such as grid, solar, wind, fuel cell and tidal
  2. Designs based on multiple, networked data centres
  3. Designs implementing availability features beyond their classification, but not fulfilling all requirements to be classified in the next class

Below are examples of innovative data center designs that do not rely on diesel generators for their primary or secondary power source.

  • Data Centres That Run Exclusively On Green Energy
  • Data centre connected to the European international grid as primary power source, situated close to a 110KV station. This international grid has been 100% available over the past six decades.
  • Data centre with on-site solar or wind generator and grid or fuel cell back-up
  • Two remote data centres running one application, one data centre running on solar and wind and one data centre running on the electrical grid
  • Data centre without diesel generators with single and double power feeds
  • Data centre with fuel cells as the primary source and grid as backup

Source: Interxion

In summary, the simplicity that led to the acceptance of global classification standards now slows progress to a degree; it does not reflect the current data center industry drive for innovation and sustainability.
We are calling for an industry-wide exchange to build support for a flexible and open standard, operated by a non-commercial organization which accepts input and welcomes cross-industry collaboration from all stakeholders.