The Data Center Design Looked Good On Paper
Bridge the gap between what is submitted and what is built.
I have a single friend who is a devotee of Match.com. To date, she has yet to meet the “man of her dreams” but she has had plenty of applicants. For those of you who met your mates using more old fashioned means — chance encounters, sitting next to each other in class, or picking them up in a bar — you may be surprised to find that many prospective online suitors tend to be less than truthful in their profile descriptions. My friend says that based on her experience, she has developed her own translation for the most common descriptions that she runs across. For example, height listings below six feet are aspirational rather than actual, “athletic” means likes to watch sports on TV, “enjoys fine wine” equates to drinks anything that doesn’t come in a box, and don’t even get her started on the accuracy of profile pictures.
As my friend has learned through hard experience, and more first dates than she’d care to remember, sometimes what looks good on (virtual) paper is really something different in reality, and doesn’t that really sum up the difference between Uptime Institute Tier III design and constructed certification?
For the uninitiated out there, the Uptime Institute (UI) offers two stages of certification. The first, design, addresses, as the name implies, the design of the facility in question. From a Match.com perspective, this is the “profile” of the proposed site as expressed in its drawings and one-lines. The institute reviews this and determines that if the site is built to the specifications laid out on paper it will provide the concurrent maintainability and reliability prescribed to operate as a Tier III facility.
For most providers, this stamp of approval serves as their license to advertise their facilities as “Tier III certified.” Unfortunately, as my friend has found upon actually meeting her “5’ 11” Adonis who “enjoys mountain biking,” reality translates into a short, paunchy, middle-aged man who once owned a Schwinn. In other words, what looked good on paper isn’t exactly what was delivered.
This disparity between what has been submitted on paper and what is actually built is addressed by UI’s constructed facility certification. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I used to view this as some type of frivolous formality that UI was using to generate more revenue. To say I was wrong would be an understatement. In actuality, this is an arduous process performed during the Level 5 commissioning phase of the facility in which the facility must meet a host of rigorous specifications. In many instances, we have found that UI’s standards were even more demanding than those required by the commissioning plan (especially as they related to setpoints and sequence of operations). The customer value of constructed facility certification is that they are provided with documented assurance that the data center that looked so good on paper is the same one that has been delivered to them or that they have elected to lease space in.
If you think about it, doesn’t the failure to obtain constructed facility certification after obtaining it for the site’s design say something about the provider who touts their “Tier III certified” facility to their customers? We recently completed a data center for a customer in a market where their leading competitor has advertised their design certified facility under the “Tier III certified” banner. Based on the fact that every facility we build carries both certifications, I think our customer’s competitor has, as Ricky used to say to Lucy, “Got some splainin’ to do.”
Recently, top tier providers such as CenturyLink and Switch have adopted the policy of obtaining both certifications so that their customers are ensured that they are obtaining space in a genuine UI Tier III certified facility. Hopefully, more providers will adopt this “truth in advertising” policy themselves since customers entrusting their mission critical operations to them deserve better than the Match.com equivalent of a short, fat, bald guy.