I just returned home from the Uptime Institute's Professional Services Accredited Tier Designer course . From the beginning instructor Vince Renaud reminded a class of about 24 engineers from 17 companies and 17 countries that Tier standards are about meeting business requirements. "Tier III is not better than Tier II," he said. 
Both Renaud and Pitt Turner, now executive director of the Uptime Institute in the wake of its purchase by The 451 Group, acknowledge that others in the industry have used the Tier terminology for marketing reasons, sometimes without even bothering to qualify a facility.The Uptime Institute is taking aggressive steps to take back control of its intellectual property, including conducting a series of training classes to accredit designers. 
The class is well worth taking, as it provides good information about the Tier standard and its uses, plus it stresses the logic of designing for the business purpose rather than the engineering that industry professionals already know cold. In short, qualifying as an Accredited Tier Designer is a value add to your engineering function. We'll shortly have video on our website on the Tier system. Additional sessions are scheduled for April in Chicago, September in London, and Atlanta in December.
Last night I had the opportunity to talk with Turner about the history of the Tier System, the Uptime Institute, and inevitably, its founder, Ken Brill. Pitt said that Brill would step back from operations and management but continue his role as spokesman and thought leader identifying future trends in the industry, a role that he loves and fills as well as anyone I know. Pitt recounted how Brill had come to realize the implications of increasing computing power density on the capital and operating cost of data center infrastructure before just about anyone else. And he tied this observation to fortunes of IT hardware manufacturers. Ever since, a whole industry has been catching up to Ken and dealing with the truth of his observations about the costs of power density. DCie, PUE, Energy Star and a host of other efforts flow from the truth of his concerns about power density in the data center.
Today, many of us are struggling with the implications of cloud computing. Jay Fry's November 24th blog posting captures two of the larger concerns.
Fry reports, "Matt Asay...recently noted a new Goldman Sachs report called 'A Paradigm Shift for IT: The Cloud' found that even though CIOs may be 'loosening the purse strings on IT  spending, IT vendors may want to hold off their celebrations.' Why? 'Much of this spending appears to be headed for deflationary forces like cloud computing [and] virtualization.'” Fry also quotes  GoGrid’s CEO John Keagey, “The dream of utility computing has arrived. I believe we’re at the height of IT spending right now. You’ll see the IT economy shrink to half its current size.” 
Fry sites an Interop panel in which AT&T’s Joe Weinman, raised doubts about the sustainability of cloud computing economics, describing a scenario in which they break down as enterprise management requirements come into play. “I’m not sure there are any unit-cost advantages that are sustainable among large enterprises,” he said. He expects adoption of external cloud computing in some areas, and private capabilities for others," Weinman said. 
Still these negative assessments fly in the face of history, For if the cloud emerges as a low-cost, higher reliability alternative to high-density, highly reliable facilities, a business model will evolve. The industry will support the business cases with strings of Tier II facilities that meet the business model rather than proprietary Tier IV facilities. Tier IV is not better, remember?
And fret not about the cloud, equipment vendors. In the May 2008 issue of Mission Critical, another visionary lighting the path forward, Microsoft's Christian Belady, wrote Does Efficiency in the Data Center Give Us What We Need?.  In that article, Belady noted that Jevons Paradox suggests that we'll be doing more computing so long as the cost of computing keeps dropping. 
Low computing cost one of the main premises of the cloud. So where does that leave the industry and its vendors, and its efforts to reign in the energy used by data centers? I think the industry will profit as long as it can be more efficient, but that its efforts to lower overall energy use will continue to be an uphill battle.