Data center group tightens certification rules for service providers

The Uptime Institute is clamping down on the use of its design certification

Uptime Institute is tightening the rules for its tier certification program

Uptime Institute is tightening the rules for its tier certification program

The Uptime Institute is updating the way it certifies data centers in a move to help ensure that cloud computing customers get the level of service they think they're paying for.

The Institute runs a tiering system in which it certifies data centers according to their ability to remain operational during critical equipment failures. Data centers with backups for key parts of their electrical infrastructure can earn the highest ratings, known as Tier III and Tier IV.

The Institute offers two types of certificates: one for the design of a facility, which is awarded based on the blueprints alone, and another for its construction, which is awarded after the data center has been completed and inspected. Companies sometimes want a design certificate because it can help them line up service contracts for a facility they plan to build.

A lot can change between the design and construction phases, and some companies that receive design certificates never go back and get their facility certified after it's been built. But they still display the design certificate prominently in marketing materials. That can be misleading for customers shopping for data center services, who often don't understand the difference.

"This practice is patently deceptive, since customers believe the facility has been constructed to meet certification criteria when in fact it hasn't," said Chris Crosby, CEO of Compass Datacenters, who's been pushing for changes to the system.

To address the problem, Uptime Institute will no longer hand out the marketing foil that shows a data center has been design certified, nor list those data centers on its website.

The change applies only to data centers that sell commercial services and, for now, only to data centers in North America.

The change is a response to "increased scrutiny from industry groups, oversight mechanisms, and legal bodies in North America into the validity of Tier Certification of design documents in the commercial marketplace," the Institute said.

"This is a policy that everyone in the industry should support," Crosby said in a blog post. "It doesn't mean that every data center needs to be certified, but it does require that if you are going to say it, you need to certify it."

The change came into effect July 1, Uptime Institute said. It doesn't affect design certificates awarded or contracted before that date.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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