May 6, 2013
Did you know that there are 131 design certified Tier III data centers in the entire world? Somehow that number seems small to me when you consider all the Tier III and Tier III+ data centers that providers are offering these days. What is even more interesting is that there are only 19 Tier III certified constructed data centers scattered across the globe. Huh? Shouldn’t the number of certified constructed facilities be the same as those that received design certification? Since the numbers don’t jive, you have to wonder what type of data center did those other 112 companies actually receive. Based on these types of disparity the mantra for today’s data center customer should be: “if you say it, certify it”.
If a data center says their design is Tier III certified, then the onus is on them to deliver a facility that can be certified as meeting those requirements once it is built. This is not the case in most instances, however. This bit of “certification” legerdemain also characterizes many providers’ LEED claims as well. Just saying that a facility is built to “LEED Standards” isn’t sufficient. What LEED standard does that mean exactly, silver, gold, platinum? If it is supposed to meet the standard, prospective customers should insist on seeing the verification. For example, there are no container based solutions that meet Uptime Standards for Tier III design and they definitely can’t be certified for construction as they aren’t designed to be durable, long term solutions. You also won’t find any of these solutions meeting any LEED standard as well. If a container-based solution is your desired choice, make sure they are UL certified (look for the sticker) and accept their reliability and efficiency limitations.
Pre-fabricated solutions are little more complicated. There is one Tier III certified facility in the country, but if LEED and Uptime certification are part of a customer’s requirements, the bulk of the certification requirements will fall upon them. Since the pre-fabricated units themselves are not designed to meet either LEED or Tier III standards, the building that will house them in a permanent implementation will be the key element in delivering the capabilities necessary to obtain both certifications. Thus, the customer retains the bulk of the responsibility, including applying and paying for the certifications, and not their provider.
The providers of Monolithic modular facilities are responsible for paying for, and performing, all of the tasks required to receive LEED and Uptime certification. The fact is, however, they rarely do. LEED certification is typically found in facilities built after 2008, but not all of them. As we’ve seen Tier III certification, either for the design or construction, is exceedingly rare in most provider locations. Thus, is it up to the customer to decide if the provider’s claims regarding efficiency and reliability sufficiently address their corporate requirements. Any provider that advertises or implies LEED or Uptime Tier compliance should be asked to provide the associated certification documentation as provided by the USGBC or Uptime Institute.
At the present time, only Compass standalone data centers are designed and built to LEED and Uptime specifications. Each facility is Tier III certified for design and construction and also LEED Gold certified. This commitment ensures that the product that is delivered to the customer meets the specifications that they agreed to in procuring their facility. In other words, they get what they paid for.
As we discussed in an earlier blog in this series, standards provide customers with an effective tool to assess competing alternatives. Unfortunately, without certification a standard becomes little more than a recommendation. Only by insisting that provider’s offer verification for their claims will they be assured that the data center they bought is the one that they receive.