In this article, in the series of articles about Uptime vs. TIA-942, I will address a statement often used in favour of Uptime vs. TIA-942. Consultants favouring Uptime are typically using the argument that they are not using a checklist but are assessing designs based on desired outcome. The claim is that ANSI/TIA-942 is not flexible and prevents innovation of designs as it is using a checklist i.e. tick in the box approach. So, let’s examine the true facts of these statements.
First of all, UTI does have a checklist. However, it is an internal checklist which is used by their own engineers to go through designs in a systematic way. This checklist is not shared with the general public, even though it would be helpful for everybody to have it, in order to get a better understanding about the details of the UTI demonstration/test criteria. This goes back to one of my previous articles about what real standards are, i.e. open and transparent.
ANSI/TIA-942 is a combination of descriptions of what needs to be achieved to meet defined rating levels as well as supplemental annexes to provide guidance on how to achieve this. However, make no mistake, purely applying the table of annex-F as a checklist for conformity without considering the rest of the standard will give you an ugly surprise during an audit as the table is a supporting element to the standard, it is not intended to be a complete checklist for all requirements of the standard. This is a classic mistake of inexperienced consultants/auditors offering consulting/audit services and proudly pull out a copy of the table, putting a tick in every box and then declare a site to conform to ANSI/TIA-942. These consultants/auditors have clearly not understood the standard and/or do not understand how audits should be conducted. Unfortunately in EPI we have seen data centre owners in “tears” when during an audit we found major non-conformities which were overlooked by these kinds of consultants. Be aware of whom you choose for consulting and audit engagements and make sure they apply the ANSI/TIA-942 appropriately.
This applies to both UTI and ANSI/TIA-942. Don’t forget that ultimately the description of what constitutes to be a Tier:I-II-III-IV is exactly the same as what ANSI/TIA-942 describes as Rated:1-2-3-4. For example, UTI:TST defines Tier-III as a Concurrently Maintainable (CM) data centre, similar to ANSI/TIA-942 defining a Rated-3 as a Concurrently Maintainable data centre. However, from the previous article you have learned that UTI:TST only covers Electrical and Mechanical (cooling) whereas ANSI/TIA-942 also includes requirements for Telecommunications to meet the CM requirement. A key difference is of course that ANSI/TIA-942 provides much more transparency and guidance on how this could be achieved, by giving clear indications of what one should/could do to achieve this.
Here is an example of how it works in the real world, which is very different than what is portrayed by consultants favouring Uptime. ANSI/TIA-942 states that for a Rated-3 data centre there should be 2 utility feeds which can come from a single substation. What about if you have only one utility feed? You could still meet Rated-3 if you can prove that you meet the overarching statement of being CM. So, if you have generators and you can prove that during planned maintenance you can switch to the generators then you could still be meeting Rated-3 requirements. Of course, there will be a number of other criteria which you will need to address to ensure that the generator is capable of continuous support of the load over extended period of time etc. but in essence you certainly can meet Rated-3 despite not having followed the exact word in the table that says you need two utility feeds. Inexperienced consultants/auditors do not understand this, Certified consultants/auditors will understand this so make sure you put your design work in capable hands. Consultants favouring Uptime often will try to scare the customer with the “you will never be able to comply to ANSI/TIA-942 as the table tells you that you must have XYZ”. It is kind of hilarious to see that the same type of consultants declare that the annexes are not part of the ANSI/TIA-942 standard but yet try to scare a customer of not meeting the items listed in the very same table they say are not part of the standard…
So, coming back to the question of “Outcome based or checklist or can it be both?” UTI is outcome based and does not provide practical guidance on how to achieve it. ANSI/TIA-942 is also outcome based but provides guidance by means of clear descriptions in various annexes and a supplemental table for you to use. Those with more advanced technical skills can still use the flexibility to implement the design differently as long as they meet the outcome objectives and guidance of the annexes. Therefore, there is absolutely no truth to the statement that ANSI/TIA-942 hinders innovation when designing data centres.
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In my next article, I will address the often-heard misconception of “Uptime is easy, TIA is hard”
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