Do Standards Really Matter?

Objective third parties needed in the industry

By Tiger Zhao, Operations Director, Chayora Data Centres

Published in Issue 6 | May 2021

The number of companies in existence that collect and process data continues to grow at an exponential rate. This makes selecting a new data centre provider a challenge, particularly when expanding into a new and/or rapidly developing region or territory.

Leaders in the technology and real estate sectors generally begin their search filtering for providers who match their needs, with common factors such as: location, security, scalability, network connectivity, etc. Outside those parameters, the next thought is to find an objective assessment of a provider’s quality from an internationally recognized body.

Data centre providers across the globe clamor to gain accreditation from internationally recognized organizations, like The Open Compute Project Foundation (OCP) and the Uptime Institute. Accreditation standards can vary, though organizations such as Uptime Institute and OCP have grown out of the need to gain vendor neutral, independent analysis of data centre quality and specific tier classifications that take into account uptime requirements, redundancies, and power protection.

UPTIME INSTITUTE

Tier certification is a performance-based evaluation of a data centre’s specific infrastructure and performed by the globally regarded Uptime Institute. Rigorous technical procedures are required to demonstrate compliance with a complex set of objective measurements to ensure that a data centre has been constructed as designed and is it capable of meeting the defined Tier requirements. There are three stages to Tier Certification:

1 Design (TCDD – valid for 2 years)

2 Constructed Facility (TCCF – valid for life of data centre)

3 Operational Sustainability (TCOS - a critically important yet many times overlooked component for performance)

According to Uptime Institute, the Tier Classification System is the only benchmarking system developed by and for data centre owners. The Tier system was designed to support a company and team in best determining their project’s solution. Already in use worldwide, it has proven to have no conflicts with local codes or regulations in more than 40 countries.

A Tier III data centre has been proven and verified objectively to be concurrently maintainable, with redundant components as key differentiators, like the distribution paths that serve the critical environment. Unlike Tier I and Tier II, a Tier III facility does not need to shut down when equipment needs maintenance or replacing. The components of Tier III are added to Tier II components so any part can be shut down without impacting IT operations. Testing is thorough in order to achieve the Uptime Tier certification, and requires in-person demonstration for Uptime consultants.

Chayora acquired Tier III certification in just three months for our facility. This is largely due to the expertise and skill of Chayora’s integrated project development, technical design and operational management teams. During the certification process all external power to the site was shut down and the entire site operated by generators. Then, the Uptime expert switched gears off one by one to monitor whether the entire system was operating as designed.

It is interesting to note that in APAC, 266 data centres have committed to this form of objective assessment and achieved the required design standard certification. Although only 107 data centres have reached the standards to hold the constructed facility certification.

Only four data centre campuses in Mainland China have achieved Tier III or above certification for both design and constructed facility from Uptime Institute. This includes: Chayora’s Tianjin campus, a government operated facility and two that offer commercial colocation services.

The situation indicates that the possibility is very real that Chinese data centres do not meet the standards expected from international companies. So, looking toward future global growth, particular care should be taken during the assessment and site selection process.

Independent verification of capability is essential at a data centre. According to a recent analysis of Tier Certifications by Uptime Institute, their consultants found system faults in nearly every Tier Certification site visit. They found that the vast majority of even the world’s most elite data centre sites do not operate as initially designed/installed. Data centre owners have been known to comment that the Tier Certification testing demonstrations were more rigorous than their own commissioning programs. This shows me that we can consider the Tier Certification as a means to reduce potential business impact from data centres not operating in year one or worse in year five.

THE OPEN COMPUTE PROJECT FOUNDATION

The other major support organization known globally which was previously mentioned, is The Open Compute Project Foundation (OCP). Their mission is to design, use and enable mainstream delivery of the most efficient designs available for scalable computing.

Expanding across the globe, OCP’s levels of objective certification have only recently extended as far as APAC. It just was in mid-2020 when SpaceDC’s data centre in Jakarta, Indonesia (JAK2) was the first to be deemed OCP Ready™. In late 2020, Chayora’s Tianjin campus became the first to achieve this status in China. To receive the OCP Ready™ certification, a facility has to meet both OCP’s detailed guidelines and have been approved by the OCP DC Facilities Project.