Syska Offers New Facility Classification System

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Is your data center a Tier III or Tier IV? How about its Criticality Level?

For more than a decade, the language of data center reliability has been measured in tiers, using a four-level system developed by The Uptime Institute, with Tier IV representing the highest level of reliability. But the arrival of high-density computing has changed many of the requirements for mission-critical facilities, according to data center engineering firm Syska Hennessy Group, which has introduced a new classification system it says expands upon the capabilities of the tier system.

“Various data center classification systems have been in use for a number of years, but their relevance to an increasingly complex infrastructure landscape is now coming into question,” said Jerry Burkhardt, Syska’s Vice President for Commissioning Services. “Syska has developed a newly defined and detailed approach to assessing the levels of criticality for data, telecom and other critical facilities directly responsible for the vitality of a data center.”

Syska will introduce its new Criticality Levels system at the DatacenterDynamics conference in New York on March 28. Syska Hennessy executives say they’re not trying to start a standards war, but are putting forth a broader vision of the criteria that define a mission-critical data center, based on their experience building or operating more than 50 million square feet of critical facilities.


“This is not meant to supplant or change (Uptime Institute’s tier system),” said Richard Dennis, Syska’s National Commissioning Manager. “It’s more of a growth and evolution process. This is a refinement, and needs to be a community process. The first thing we need to do is convince the industry that this is not something new or revolutionary. This is a necessary next step. We need to come together as a community and communicate with one another about what the requirements of a data center really are.”

Syska says the tier system’s focus on power issues needs to be expanded to address the growing significance of cooling and other variables that differentiate between facilities and the number of “nines” of uptime they can be expected to deliver.

The Criticality Levels proposal, which Syska describes as an “industry position,” itemizes and evaluates a lengthy list of components and subsystems across a spectrum that includes HVAC, electrical systems, security, IT infrastructure and many others. A detailed presentation at DataCenterDynamics is envisioned asa cinversation starter, according to Dennis.

“We need to expand and redefine (standards) to more accurately reflect current trends,” he said. “It provides us with an expanded common basis of understanding. The intent is that facility manages will be able to better articulate their needs and best practices.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.