Created by ‘Switch,’ a Tier 5 Platinum Standard design enhances some of the more traditional standards, such as Uptime Tier III and Tier IV, by introducing over 30 additional elements, representing a significant leap forward regarding resiliency, efficiency, and sustainability.
Tier 5 data centers are engineered to minimize downtime, reduce environmental impact, and optimize energy consumption, catering to the growing demands of modern businesses and consumers for always-on, data-intensive applications.
⚠️ Note that this standard looks to be discontinued or only used by the creator.
🔗 Please note this article is not about Data Center Levels, for that please refer to 'DATA CENTER | 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Levels of Commissioning'
Table of Contents
🟩 What is a Data Center Tier?
A ‘Data Center Tier’ is a standardized classification system that categorizes data centers based on their levels of reliability, redundancy, and availability, providing a way to assess its infrastructure and design, outlining its capability to provide uninterrupted operation and lower the risk of downtime, even in the face of potential failures or disruptions.
The Uptime Institute specifies 4 Tiers, and switch.com 1 Tier:
- Tier I – Basic Capacity | The Uptime Institute
- Tier II – Redundant Site Infrastructure | The Uptime Institute
- Tier III – Concurrently Maintainable | The Uptime Institute
- Tier IV – Fault Tolerance | The Uptime Institute
- Tier V – No Specific Name is Given | Switch.com
🔗 For more information on Tier 1 to 4 Data Centers and what Tiers are, see our article | 'DATA CENTER TIERS | 1, 2, 3 & 4 Explained with Downloads'
🟩 Who created the Tier V Requirements?
With a legacy of designing, building, and operating data centers, as a collocation provider, since 2000, the Nevada-based Data Center Company Switch.com created the Tier 5 Platinum requirements and standards to address the intricate demands of a rapidly evolving technological landscape that not only meet but exceed the expectations of today’s mission-critical operations.
🟩 Why is there a need for Tier V?
The need for Tier 5 data center design arises from several factors highlighting the limitations of existing data center rating systems [Uptime Tier I, II, III & IV] with the constantly evolving demands of the modern technological landscape within the data center industry.
- Evolving Technological Landscape: The original data center standards were developed in the early 1990s and may not adequately account for the technological advancements and diverse offerings in today’s data center market. With options ranging from in-house to cloud services, data center standards must encompass broader considerations, including security, connectivity, sustainability, and optionality.
- Holistic Evaluation of Key Elements: Earlier rating systems focus primarily on power and cooling; Tier 5 Platinum evaluates over 30 essential elements, including long-term power system capabilities, carrier availability, zero roof penetrations, location of cooling system pipework, physical and network security, and 100% use of renewable energy.
- Enhanced Reliability and Redundancy: While lower-tier ratings like Tier IV focus on resiliency and redundancy, Tier 5 adds an even higher level of ‘fault sustainability’ in design, implementation, and operation, ensuring that the facility is 100% renewably powered with a seasoned sector 12 months PUE trailing average of less than 1.3.
- Mission-Critical Factors: are considered and evaluated that may not be required of other Tier standard requirements, such as water damage, telecommunication carrier diversity, geographical risk, and physical/network security. These factors can significantly impact data center uptime and reliability, essential considerations in today’s interconnected and data-driven world.
- Transparency and Accountability: Tier 5 seeks to provide a more transparent and reliable framework for assessing data center quality.
- Support for Internet of Things (IoT) and Beyond: With an ever-expanding scope of interconnected devices and technologies [IoT], and an increasing reliance on these technologies, the infrastructure supporting them needs to be robust, secure, and reliable, which Tier 5 Platinum aims to achieve.
- Self-Regulation and Industry Alignment: Switch’s initiative to create the Data Center Standards Foundation (DCSF) illustrates the need for industry alignment and self-regulation. This foundation, along with the new version of data center “Class” standards, aims to provide greater transparency into data center reliability. It allows data center users, owners, and operators to accurately assess and represent their facilities’ ratings while enabling independent third-party verification audits.
In summary, the Tier 5 data center design is needed because it addresses the limitations of older data center rating systems, provides a holistic approach to data center integrity, and aligns with the evolving technological landscape and demands of mission-critical operations in the modern world.
🟩 Downtime and Uptime Requirements
The Uptime Institute & Switch Tier Classification System defines five tier types (Tier I, II, III, IV & V) for the reliability and availability of data centers.
As can be seen, the Uptime Institutes data includes information on availability, whereas the Switch information does not.
- Tier I: Expected Uptime: 99.671% | Hours of Downtime: up to 29 hours.
- Tier II: Expected Uptime: 99.741% | Hours of Downtime: up to 22 hours.
- Tier III: Expected Uptime: 99.982% | Hours of Downtime: up to 1.6 hours.
- Tier IV: Expected Uptime: 99.995% | Minutes of Downtime: up to 26.3 minutes.
- Tier V: Expected Uptime: ⚠️ not specified | Hours of Downtime: ⚠️ not specified.
🟩 Tier IV Data Center vs. Tier V
Reviewing the Switch site, six elements are covered when considering the difference between a Tier 4 and Tier 5 Data Center design:
- Power Systems
- Cooling Systems
- Carrier Services
- Physical Security
- Water Protection
- Power Sustainability and Efficiency
🚀 The below table provides a detailed comparison between the Tier 4 and Tier 5 data center requirements, based on the Uptime Institutes requirements vs. Switch.
|Active components supporting the IT Load||Normal|
After any failure
After any failure
|Redundant components and redundant systems to provide support during maintenance and or failures||Required||Required|
|100% renewably powered||Not required||Required|
|Powered by local, new, renewable projects||Not required||Required|
|Seasoned sector 12 month PUE trailing average of less than 1.3||Not required||Required|
|Generator System||Primary Power Source vs Utility||Primary Power Source vs Utility|
|Engine Generator Rating||Continuous||Continuous|
|Multiple Monitor Control Stations for Generator Power [3 separate locations]||Not required||Required|
|Engine Generator/Fuel Cell||Normal|
After any failure
[12 hours storage]
After any failure
[100 hours storage]
|Uninterruptible Power Supply [UPS]||Normal|
After any failure
After any failure
|Circuit Monitoring from UPS to Power Panel Branch Circuits||Not required||Required|
|Stored Energy System||Not required||Configured in N+1|
|Stored Energy System has a permanently installed Monitoring System||Not required||Required|
|Electrical Distribution Paths||2 Active at same time||2 Active at same time|
|Sufficient IT capacity when a critical component is removed from service||Yes||Yes|
|Multiple stations within the electrical backbone for switchgear control monitored at 3 separate locations with each being fully functional||Not required||Required|
|Paths for Power [IT Equipment]||2 Active at same time||2 Active at same time|
|Dedicated Cooling Equipment||Yes||Yes|
|Cooling Distribution Paths||2 Active at same time||2 Active at same time|
After any failure
[12 hours storage]
|Data Center can run forever without water|
|External Air Pollutant Detection System including response requirements||Not required||Required|
|Concurrently Maintainable||Yes||Both A & B power stays online during 90% of site maintenance|
|Dedicated IT Area||Yes||Yes|
|10 on-net carriers available to all customers||Not required||Required|
|6 facility entry vaults from at least two pathways||Not required||Required|
|D/DoS mitigation services made available to customers||Not required||Required|
|Each server rack is securable||Not required||Required|
|Access to critical asset systems and networks such as HVAC/Power/Network/Security are securable||Not required||Required|
|Monitored, motion activated, video surveillance of service spaces and entrances at 15 images per second and retained for at least 90 days||Not required||Required|
|Each compartmentalized cage/room on the data center floor is independently securable||Not required||Required|
|The facility within the premises has photo ID badged entry access control which records access times/dates/user for 180 days||Not required||Required|
|The facility exterior walls are windowless and made of concrete or a similarly non-flammable, non-penetrable walls||Not required||Required|
|Exterior doors are reinforced (e.g. steel stiffened) in a steel frame which is fully grout filled and if unmanned without visible hinges||Not required||Required|
|The premises has at least a minimum 7' with 18" perimeter fence with a 3 strand barbed wire topper, or similar piking, at 45 degree angle away from the premises that is not minimized by vehicle or pedestrian access||Not required||Required|
|The facility has man trap access control at all entrances||Not required||Required|
|Access control authenticates each badge holder by PIN/biometric/Two Person Integrity||Not required||Required|
|Security operations employs the most stringent physical security enforcement tools allowable by law||Not required||Required|
|No flammable material is permitted on the data floor||Not required||Required|
|Auditing standards required for the logical data housed are met||Not required||Required|
|Access Control Program regulates access to operational zones||Not required||Required|
|The premises can maintain shelter in place security operations for 100 hours||Not required||Required|
|The security team conducts at least semi-annual security threat assessments in accordance with the facility's established quantitative and qualitative threat assessment methods.||Not required||Required|
|No high-risk neighboring facilities (e.g. highly flammable, explosive, HAZMAT, or nuclear risks)||Not required||Required|
|Independently repairable/replaceable dual roof system||Not required||Required|
|Located outside a 100-year flood plain||Not required||Required|
|All cooling water outside the building shell (i.e. no water permitted on or above data center floor)||Not required||Required|
|Representation and warranty letter signed by officer of the company guaranteeing service levels||Not required||Required|
🟩 Are there any Tier 5 Platinum Certified Data Centers?
Across the industry, we are highly used to seeing Uptime Data Center Tier Certification that stipulates the expectations regarding data center facilities, redundancy levels, continuous availability, expected backup components, unexpected disruptions, management of failures, and maintenance protocols.
Many providers have these certifications, covering Telecommunications Companies, Multinational Power Companies, Colocation Centers, and Owner Operated Cloud Data Center Providers.
On the other hand, Tier 5 is not so much. So we ask, ‘Are there any Tier 5 data centers out there’?
From our research, all certified Tier 5 Certified Data Centers are owned and operated by switch.com – the company behind the Tier 5 standard.
🟩 How do you get Certified?
There seems to be no natural way to get certified for a Tier 5 Data Center Design or Construction.
Initially, on the Switch website, there was a new standard to be set up called ‘Data Center Standards Foundation [DCSF].
The foundation was to be set up as a non-profit, collaborating with industry experts to introduce transparent data center standards beyond Tier 5 Platinum and to enable self-regulation, enhancing reliability and security for global digital infrastructure, empowering users, owners, and operators to assess and verify data center ratings through independent audits and as competition with ‘The Uptime Institute’.
We can’t find any information on this [DCSF] apart from references on the Switch site and some articles written around 2017.
A Trademark application was made in March of 2017, but it seems to have since been abandoned.
Please let me know via my Linkedin Personal Account if you have any information.