Cloud data center designs: TIA-942 certification for providers

The TIA and EPI are developing a certification program around the TIA 942 standard for cloud data center designs, uptime and resiliency.

Cloud service providers, data center professionals and colocation providers all share one common requirement: maintaining an available and reliable data center at all times. While the ultimate goal is the same, data center designs are not consistent across the board.

Cloud providers have developed their own approaches to location selection, purchasing hardware and cabling their data centers, as well as managing and maintaining their facilities. While not every company has its own practices for data center design, a standards-based approach can help providers ensure they have the appropriate design, construction and management to guarantee a highly available environment and customer satisfaction. A certification from a standards body can also reassure customers that a cloud provider can meet its service-level agreements.

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the Enterprise Product Integration (EPI) organization have entered a licensing agreement that will allow EPI to develop international certified training courses for the TIA-942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standards for Data Centers -- a standard that addresses installation, maintenance and architectural considerations of data center designs for providers.

TIA-942 training courses for data center designs

The global TIA 942 standard for data center uptime evolved from a networking standard to include site selection and administration. Prior to the standard -- which was developed in 2005 -- providers didn't have many data center guidelines or recommendations to follow. Since many data center professionals and cloud service providers already rely on the 942 standard for data center designs, it's a good starting point for a training course, said Herb Congdon, associate vice president of technology and standards development for the Arlington, Va.- based TIA.

"The EPI conducted a global survey and found that 78% of data center professionals were using and referencing the TIA 942 standard. … Even though the 942 standard has been out for some time, there is still an information gap in awareness," Congdon said.

The EPI organization -- which develops training courses for data center designs -- will be working closely with the TIA to incorporate the 942 standard into the foundation of their program, he said. The training courses will allow cloud providers and data center professionals to become certified in the TIA 942 standard.

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The TIA 942 standard will get greater exposure in the global market once it becomes the foundation of the training program, he said.

"There are certain markets that are still coming up to speed with the standard, so this will help providers who are still building out their facilities and hiring local resources in other geographic areas," said Amy DeCarlo, principal analyst for security and data center services at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc.

In addition to data center development and construction, the 942 standard training courses will also be useful for evaluating existing environments, Congdon said.

"If a [provider] wants to identify their weak points or increase the reliability of their data center, the standard and course will tell the provider very prescriptively what level or Tier their data center is [Tier 1-4], and what functionality [the provider] may have to incorporate to move to another Tier," he said.

What does provider data center training mean for cloud customers?

The data center market is growing rapidly. Certification among cloud providers will be able to help them stay competitive, and potentially differentiate from other providers," DeCarlo said.

The cloud is still a nebulous concept for many users and trust has to be established between providers and their customers, who typically have very little insight into the physical infrastructure associated with their cloud environment.

"Data center [professionals] and providers are not required to adhere to any standards unless there are regulatory requirements, but certification programs are very helpful in proving the stability of a provider's environment," DeCarlo said.

Customers looking for providers to host their infrastructure look to certifications -- like the TIA 942 -- as proof of capabilities, and can be helpful for providers when responding to request for proposals, said Rachel Dines, senior analyst for infrastructure and operations at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"While just having that stamp of certification won't draw in hoards of new customers, it can definitely help in a competitive situation," Dines said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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