Uptime vs. TIA-942: Uptime certification is easy, ANSI/TIA-942 certification is difficult

Following up on my previous article, we will now have a closer look at a statement which consultants favouring Uptime tend to throw at data centre operator/owners trying to convince them to go for Uptime certification instead of ANSI/TIA-942 certification. One of the famous statements is “Uptime certification is easier to achieve compared to TIA-942”.

When hearing this, the first thought that comes to my mind is what my late father always said, ‘If something is too easy to achieve, it is probably not worth it’. Having said that, I don’t think that Uptime certification is all that easy to comply with. So why is it that such statements are being made?

At the core of those using such statements is of course a commercial interest by trying to scare data centre owners/operators from pursuing the ANSI/TIA-942 certification. So, what are their justifications and are these true or false? The arguments usually brought up in those conversations are;

  1. UTI:TST only reviews electrical and mechanical (cooling) systems whereas ANSI/TIA-942 is too complicated as it covers everything including telecommunications, physical security etc.
  2. ANSI/TIA-942 is prescriptive and has many strict requirements in the Table which are hard to implement
  3. If you fail to meet one of the ANSI/TIA-942 requirement then you cannot get certified

Let’s have a look at each of these statements one by one to decipher the truth;

Argument-1; UTI:TST only reviews electrical and mechanical;

There are two items to be examined here;

1.      The scope of the audit, in this case being electrical and mechanical

2.      The difficulty in meeting the criteria for the defined scope

As for the scope, yes it is true that the smaller the scope is, the less will be assessed and therefore potentially less issues might be discovered. But to me that sounds like saying that you have a safe car because your seatbelts are certified but you didn’t look at the tires, the structural strength of the car and other factors that have an impact on the overall safety. Similar to a data centre, you can review only electrical and mechanical systems like UTI:TST but if you don’t review the network, physical security and other factors then you still have a very large risk at hand from an overall data centre reliability perspective. So, as a business manager running an enterprise or commercial data centre, or as a user of a commercial data centre, would you be happy to know that a certificate is not covering all aspects that potentially poses a business risk to you? A broader scope like what is in the ANSI/TIA-942 will ensure that all potential physical risks are evaluated.

As for the difficulty of meeting the criteria for the defined scope, in this respect UTI is certainly not easier compared to ANSI/TIA-942. In fact, some of the requirements from UTI are considered to be more difficult; an example is the requirement for prime generators whereas ANSI/TIA-942 is allowing standby generators. Another example, UTI is more stringent on ambient conditions as they look at the most extreme condition considering a 20-year history. These two facts alone have have many engineers (and business owners) baffled as it adds greatly to the cost and one often wonders why go to these extremes as ultimately it adds to the cost. ANSI/TIA-942 is in that sense more practical yet allows you to go to these extremes if you wish to do so and are willing to pay the incremental cost. This will give the business an option to choose a well-balance risk vs. investment model.

Argument-2: ANSI/TIA-942 is prescriptive and has many strict requirements in the Table which are hard to implement

This argument is baseless and is aimed at those who do not understand how audits really work. As indicated in one of my previous articles, “Outcome based or checklist or can it be both?” we made it clear that the table is supporting the overarching requirement for each rating level. So, if something is not meeting the exact description of the table it does not mean that you don’t meet the requirement of the standards.  Read the article I wrote about this subject here: “Outcome based or checklist or can it be both?”

Argument-3: If you fail to meet one of the ANSI/TIA-942 requirements then you cannot get certified

This argument pretty much follows the same “logic” of the previous statement. There is NO such truth as not being able to get certified if you miss out on meeting a particular description of the table. Furthermore, in auditing based on ISO, there are Cat-1 and Cat-2 non-conformities. I will explain the difference in a future article but for now it will be sufficient to say that if a site has one (or multiple) Cat-2 non-conformities then that does not automatically mean that a site cannot be certified.

Conclusion

The conclusion is that UTI:TST is being portrayed to be easier based on a narrow scope but that leaves business owners at risk for having an incomplete true assessment of all important factors that make up a reliable data centre infrastructure. If you compare the same scope for UTI:TST vs. ANSI/TIA-942 then both have the same overarching goal such as concurrently maintainability and fault tolerance etc.  whereby in fact UTI can turn out to be more costly due to some requirements which some data centre operator owners consider to be overkill.