The need for a new data centre design standard

14 Mar 2016

With Facebook set to build a huge data centre in Meath and Apple to construct one in Galway, data centres are a major area of interest in Ireland. Here, Interxion discusses the reasons why a new design standard for data centres needs to be on the agenda.

Alongside the existing “fixed harness” availability standards, the data centre industry needs a more inclusive and flexible classification standard that can account for visionary designs that leverage resilience, sustainability and efficiency.

The industry and the environment will benefit from an open-source and flexible classification model that will enable all data centre stakeholders to drive innovation towards more sustainable data centre design.

Data centre design, build and operational standards were pioneered by organisations such as the UI, TIA and BICSI approximately 20 years ago (e.g. BICSI 0-3 and Uptime Tier I to IV).

The simplicity and clarity of these standards have made them the data centre industry’s design reference points.
Typically, these standards are structured on four progressive classes, only covering traditional designs based on redundant diesel generators and UPSs. Ranked for performance and uptime, each class incorporates the requirements of the previous class:

  • Basic non-redundant: capacity requirements for a dedicated data centre site
  • Basic redundant: capacity components that increase data centre availability
  • Concurrent maintainable: increased level of redundancy that enables the data centre subsystems to continue operating while subsystem components are being replaced or maintained
  • Fault-tolerant: data centre with fully redundant subsystems.

The simple and clear structure of these standards has served the industry well over the past two decades but now we are at the point of change.

By virtue of their fixed harness per design, these standards do not stimulate data centre design innovation, whilst innovation is key to increasing data centre industry sustainability.

In addition, an increasing number of data centres in operation or under construction cannot be classified using the traditional standards. Three frequently-used types of unclassified designs are:

  • Designs exclusively using alternative energy sources such as grid, solar, wind, fuel cell and tidal
  • Designs based on multiple, networked data centres
  • Designs implementing availability features beyond their classification, but not fulfilling all requirements to be classified in the next class.

Below is a list of innovative data centre designs that do not rely on diesel generators for their primary or secondary power source.

Data centres that run exclusively on green energy

  • Data centre connected to the European international grid as primary power source, situated close to a 110KV station. This international grid has been 100pc available over the past six decades
  • Data centre with on-site solar or wind generator and grid or fuel cell back-up
  • Two remote data centres running one application, one data centre running on solar and wind and one data centre running on the electrical grid
  • Data centre without diesel generators with single and double power feeds
  • Data centre with fuel cells as the primary source and grid as backup.

In summary, the simplicity that led to the acceptance of global classification standards now slows progress to a degree; it does not reflect the current data centre industry drive for innovation and sustainability.

We are calling for an industry-wide exchange to build support for a flexible and open standard, operated by a non-commercial organisation that accepts input and welcomes cross-industry collaboration from all stakeholders.

See Interxion’s full white paper on this issue here.

This post was originally published on Interxion’s blog.

Data centre image via Shutterstock