Dec 4, 2020

Crash course: data centre tiers

Data Centres
Disaster Recovery
Harry Menear
3 min
Data centre operators boast about being Tier III or Tier IV certified. But what does that mean?
Data centre operators boast about being Tier III or Tier IV certified. But what does that mean...

For more than 25 years, the Uptime Institute’s data centre tiering system has been the defining certification in the industry. But what does it mean exactly to operate a Tier III data centre compared to a Tier II facility? 

The Uptime Institute was founded in 1993, and since then has operated as the third-party adjudicator of data centre resilience and complexity. Its four tier certification standards evaluate the quality and reliability of a data centre’s server hosting ability using a proprietary rating system that assesses power, cooling, backup capabilities, redundancies and average outage time per year. It’s also worth noting that the tiering system is progressive, so a Tier III data centre must meet the criteria for tiers I and II, in addition to those required for Tier III. 

Tier I

The most basic data centres. Tier I facilities are essentially warehouses with electricity and cooling. Typically used by smaller businesses and legacy operators, Tier I data centres provide the basic data centre infrastructure that goes one step beyond a server in an office. They have a dedicated space for servers and other IT components, an uninterruptible power supply, dedicated cooling systems that continue operating outside business hours, and a backup generator. Tier I facilities must be able to guarantee 99.671% uptime, and no more than 28.8 hours of downtime per year. 

Tier II

This is where modern data centre design methodology starts to take effect. The average enterprise data centre, or facility in a developing market will have capabilities equal to a Tier II certification. Tier II facilities are defined by their redundant capacity, including critical power and cooling redundancies that establish “an increased margin of safety against IT process disruptions that would result from site infrastructure equipment failures,” according to Matt Stansberry of the Uptime Institute. 

Tier III

The highest level of certification you’ll ever need unless you’re running a public cloud, cutting edge research facility or maybe a government. Tier III data centres are concurrently maintainable, which means they require no disruption of service even when conducting major repairs, replacements or maintenance. Also, the certification requires additional redundancy of power and cooling, “so that each and every component needed to support the IT processing environment can be shut down and maintained without impact on the IT operation.” 

Tier IV

So, you’ve got a major public cloud, average-sized government or respectable military to run and you need to put your data somewhere. The redundancies and capabilities provided by Tiers I through III are further built upon by Tier IV data centres with the addition of dramatically increased fault tolerance measures. “Fault Tolerance means that when individual equipment failures or distribution path interruptions occur, the effects of the events are stopped short of the IT operations,” writes Stansberry. 

In conclusion, he reflects that the “Uptime Institute recognises that most data center designs are custom endeavors, with complex design elements and multiple technology choices. With all of the technology choices available to designers today, including renewable power sources, innovative distribution and advanced cooling approaches, the Tier Standard of Topology is unique in being able to encourage that usage, as long as the resulting infrastructure precisely meets the outcomes defined in the Tier Standard for the level chosen. As such, the Tier Classification System does not prescribe any specific technology, schematic or other design criteria beyond those resulting outcomes stated above. It is up to the data center owner to meet those outcome criteria in any method that fits his or her infrastructure goals based on the business parameters.” 

Whatever your business demands, the Uptime Institute’s certification tiers are a solid guide to understanding the data centre that best suits your needs. 

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Jun 15, 2021

Sustainability and PUE reduction in data centres

2 min
As green data centre design becomes mission critical, rigid evaporative media can be the key to reducing your PUE and increasing your sustainability. 

The data centre industry is at a crossroads. As demand for colocation, hyperscale cloud, and edge solutions continues to rise, operators and enterprises are also facing up to the reality that sustainable design and operating practice are a mission critical component of the modern data centre. Going green is no longer an optional extra.

Data centres are becoming an increasingly critical foundation that underpins the modern world, and the demand for them continues to grow exponentially each year. Data centres must remain in constant operation in order to provide the services for which customers depend on them. 

This mission critical need, combined with the sector-wide push towards reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint throughout the industry, is making the search for innovative evaporative media solutions that keep systems running at peak efficiency an equally mission critical priority.

The two main sources of energy consumption in a modern data centre are its IT equipment and the cooling infrastructure used to keep that equipment cool. A 2017 study found that energy consumption as the direct result of cooling data centre IT equipment can amount to over 40% of the total energy consumption in a facility. From air cooling to liquid and evaporative chillers, data centre operators, finding the right cooling solution for your facility is a top-of-mind goal for any data centre operator. 

Courtesy of Portacool
Courtesy of Portacool

Portacool: keeping it Kuul 

Based in Center, Texas, Portacool is a portable evaporative cooling solutions firm that has been pushing the boundaries of mission critical infrastructure cooling technology since it entered the market in 1990. 

Through constant embodiment of its five brand pillars - Safety & Liability, Total Cost of Ownership, Productivity & Performance, Sustainability & Social Responsibility, and Life & Comfort Enhancing Solutions - Portacool has grown steadily over the past 30 years, continually reinforcing its reputation for industry-leading cooling solutions. 

Portacool’s solutions have been successfully applied throughout the agricultural and horticultural, manufacturing, industrial, business, entertainment, sports, home, and hobby industries - “anywhere cooling is needed and traditional air conditioning is impractical or cost prohibitive.” 

The company’s sub-brand, Kuul, is Portacool’s answer to the growing need for reliable, sustainable cooling solutions in the data centre sector. Portacool manufactures three series of evaporative media – Kuul Control, Kuul Vitality and Kuul Comfort. Kuul Control is used in data centres, power generation and HVAC systems. Kuul Vitality is utilised primarily in the horticulture, poultry and swine industries. Kuul Comfort is exclusively made for usage in Portacool-branded portable evaporative coolers.

Kuul can help data centre operators lower their PUE dramatically, increasing the environmental sustainability of their facilities significantly as a result of its rigid evaporative media solutions. 

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