Uptime Institute (UI) – Industry Standard TIER Classifications

Data Center Classifications

Data center Tier definitions explain the infrastructure required for data center operations. There are different Tiers according to the system availability needed. These classifications are objective and reliable methods for comparing the performance of one site infrastructure against another and aligning infrastructure investments to business goals.

Data Center Tier Certification

What a Tier Classification Means for a Data Center and Its Infrastructure

The data center Tier definitions define criteria, but not specific technology options or design choices to meet the Tier. Tiers are flexible enough to allow for many solutions that meet performance goals and compliance regulations. Many solutions lead to engineering innovation and uniqueness across data centers. Each data center can decide the best way to meet the Tier criteria and business goals.

Data center owners may want to reach a particular Tier level to meet their business demands. Uptime Institute can rate and certify your design and facility using the standards from our Tier classification requirements to give a Tier Certification. This certification means that the infrastructure has no weak areas, and the data center has worldwide accountability for excellence.

Our Tier Certification process is an unbiased assessment that ensures all parties involved meet the given requirements and expectations. We will examine the infrastructure of your data center for our evaluation to consider your individual needs.

Data Center Tier Levels

The data center Tier levels are:

Tier I

A Tier I data center is the basic capacity level with infrastructure to support information technology for an office setting and beyond. The requirements for a Tier I facility include:

  • An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for power sags, outages, and spikes.
  • An area for IT systems.
  • Dedicated cooling equipment that runs outside office hours.
  • An engine generator for power outages.

Tier I protects against disruptions from human error, but not unexpected failure or outage. Redundant equipment includes chillers, pumps, UPS modules, and engine generators. The facility will have to shut down completely for preventive maintenance and repairs, and failure to do so increases the risk of unplanned disruptions and severe consequences from system failure.

Tier II

Tier II facilities cover redundant capacity components for power and cooling that provide better maintenance opportunities and safety against disruptions. These components include:

  • Engine generators.
  • Energy storage.
  • Chillers.
  • Cooling units.
  • UPS modules.
  • Pumps.
  • Heat rejection equipment.
  • Fuel tanks.
  • Fuel cells.

The distribution path of Tier II serves a critical environment, and the components can be removed without shutting it down. Like a Tier I facility, unexpected shutdown of a Tier II data center will affect the system.

Tier III

A Tier III data center is concurrently maintainable with redundant components as a key differentiator, with redundant distribution paths to serve the critical environment. Unlike Tier I and Tier II, these facilities require no shutdowns when equipment needs maintenance or replacement. The components of Tier III are added to Tier II components so that any part can be shut down without impacting IT operation.

Tier IV

A Tier IV data center has several independent and physically isolated systems that act as redundant capacity components and distribution paths. The separation is necessary to prevent an event from compromising both systems. The environment will not be affected by a disruption from planned and unplanned events. However, if the redundant components or distribution paths are shut down for maintenance, the environment may experience a higher risk of disruption if a failure occurs.

Tier IV facilities add fault tolerance to the Tier III topology. When a piece of equipment fails, or there is an interruption in the distribution path, IT operations will not be affected. All of the IT equipment must have a fault-tolerant power design to be compatible. Tier IV data centers also require continuous cooling to make the environment stable.