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Uptime exec: Data center ratings aid cloud choice

The tier system for ranking data center reliability has become a useful tool for businesses selecting a cloud provider

By , IDG News Service
May 03, 2011 04:56 PM ET

IDG News Service - Julian Kudritzki has more visibility than most into how the Uptime Institute's data center tier system is being used around the world, and according to him it's become a useful tool to help businesses find a reliable hosting provider for their applications.

Kudritzki, a vice president with the Uptime Institute, travels to South America, Europe and other regions explaining the tier system to prospective clients and supporting them while they get certified. This year he's opening an Uptime office in Sao Paulo.

The tier system ranks data centers into four tiers according to their expected levels of uptime and availability, based on how much redundancy is built into the infrastructure. A Tier 3 data center has a high level of uptime, and a Tier 4 is about as bulletproof as they come.

One of the trends Kudritzki has seen is more businesses asking their collocation facility or managed hosting provider to become tier-certified. As businesses start to put more applications in third-party data centers, the tier system can provide them with assurance that they're getting the level of service they pay for, he said.

One week before the Institute's symposium in San Jose, California, Kudritzki talked to IDG News Service about this and other trends. Following is an edited transcript:

IDG News Service: What's the purpose of the tier system, why is it useful?

Julian Kudritzki: The tier system serves to take data centers, which are by definition highly customized, unique facilities, and compare them using a common set of concepts. We look purely at the design and its implementation, we don't look at what kind of building you have or how you staff it. Not that those aren't important but we start by asking, what are the maintenance opportunities and what is its fault response.

IDGNS: Meaning, how often do you have to take systems offline for maintenance?

J.K.: Right, or do you have to take them offline at all. One of the big leaps is between Tier 2 and Tier 3, because when you introduce Tier 3 you introduce maintenance opportunities across all the infrastructure without influencing your IT operations.

Then fault response, which comes with Tier 4, is the ability for the infrastructure in and of itself to rectify a fault, contain it and sustain the IT operations without any adverse impact.

IDGNS: What trends have you seen in the past few years?

J.K.: One of the interesting phenomena is the emergence of higher tiers in the third-party industry (e.g. collocation and hosting providers). For a while, the third-party industry was focussed mainly on lower-tier business cases. Now, as the cost of data centers has become so exorbitant, enterprises are reticent about putting their money into a data center. We see more enterprises that typically ran large, high-availability data centers going to the third parties. So we see more certifications for collocations, hosting environments, managed service providers, whatever term you prefer.

IDGNS: A couple of years ago Mike Manos [a well known industry figure who currently manages AOL's data centers] was critical of the tier system, saying people adhered to it "dogmatically" instead of thinking about what are their real data center needs.

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