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Switch Standard Takes Aim at Uptime Institute

June 09, 2017

Industry standards to assess data centers are out of date and ready for replacement, says Switch. That’s why the company this week introduced its Tier 5 Data Center Standard. This effort, and what will follow, poses a direct challenge to the Uptime Institute.

Switch is a multitenant data center provider. It was founded in 2000 and it’s headquartered in Las Vegas.

That company says its Tier 5 Data Center Standard is just the first step in its move to establish a not-for-profit standards body called the Data Center Standards Foundation. It’s working with a variety of former Uptime Institute leaders on this front. That includes former Uptime Institute senior electrical engineer Ed Rafter, who just joined Switch to work on the DCSF.

“The DCSF approach will be in contrast to entities like the for-profit Uptime Institute, which sells its certification services to the same customers pursued by Uptime Institute's parent, the 451 Group, creating conflict of interest and independence questions,” according to the Switch announcement. (See Uptime Institute’s response below).

Switch’s Tier 5 Data Center Standard is a data center rating system that evaluates a broad collection of parameters. Those elements include the location of cooling system lines in or above the facility, the data center’s long-term power system capability, the number of its available carriers, its physical and network security, whether it uses 100 percent renewable energy, and zero roof penetrations.

These are important metrics given that major threats to data center uptime include being located in a high-risk geo zone, inadequate physical and network security, reliance on too few telecommunication carriers, and water damage. Yet these elements are not being evaluated in other tiered data center rating systems, according to Switch.

Switch says its expertise in the data center realm makes it uniquely positioned to help drive standards in this arena. The company’s founder, CEO Rob Roy, has developed more than 260 patent and patent-pending claims covering data center designs. And in 2014 the company became the first and only carrier-neutral colocation facility to gain Tier IV Gold certification from the Uptime Institute. Additionally, last year Switch was the only company in its category to accomplish that certification twice.

Hank Seader collaborated with Switch on its Tier 5 standard. Seader is the former managing principal of the Uptime Institute.

Image via Pixabay

Seader worked with Uptime Institute founder Ken Brill on developing the original data center standards. Back then, Seader said, the thinking was that those standards would evolve over time. However, he added, while data centers themselves have changed significantly, “innovation has stagnated” around standards for them.

“The various industry metrics have become stale,” said Vince Renaud, co-author of the Uptime Institute operational sustainability standards and former CTO of the Uptime Institute from 2009 to 2013, as quoted in the Switch announcement. 

Renaud added, “Switch's Tier 5 standard injects critical parameters to enhance availability and reliability for the colocation industry.”

Responding to my request for comment about the above news, Lee Kirby, president of Uptime Institute, said the following: “Uptime Institute Tier Standards continue to grow, expand, and innovate. Based on performance objectives and behaviors, the Tier Standards are flexible and embrace the market’s latest technology developments.”

“New technologies and applications that have been certified by Uptime Institute range from cooling and water compressors to new standards for management and operations, and sustainability innovation with Efficient IT,” he continued. “Because every data center is different, with varying complexities and issues based variables like local characteristics or build parameters, Uptime Institute's Tier Standards are designed to be highly flexible in their approach, avoiding the need to be rewritten to address new technologies and applications as the topology expands to meet today's changing needs.”

He added that the Uptime Institute disagrees with the premise that the original authors of the standard have left the Uptime Institute and that innovation has stagnated. Kirby said two of the original authors of the standards continue to play prominent roles at Uptime Institute. And he added that the organization offers courses worldwide “with thousands of graduates from the most rigorous data center curriculum.” 

In response to my inquiry as to whether the Uptime Institute considers Switch a competitor, Kirby said it does not.  

“Uptime Institute is an independent advisory organization – not a colocation company,” Kirby commented. “We'd add that a non-profit driven and funded by a private entity with [a] specific agenda is not an unbiased organization.” 

Edited by Alicia Young

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