Program provides certification to TIA’s 942 data center standard

May 21, 2020
Data center facilities that earn the TIA’s accreditation undergo an audit to ensure they comply with the association’s standards for data center infrastructure.

By Patrick McLaughlin

A program the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) kicked off in August 2019 provides data centers the opportunity to gain certification that they comply with the association’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers, the ANSI/TIA-942 standard series. At the time of its launch, the TIA described the program as “a scheme to provide official auditing and certification of data centers.

“With this official recognition by the TIA, data center operators can now demonstrate, to both internal and external end users, that their data center has been independently audited to meet the target resilience rating required by their business,” the TIA continued.

Program administration

Certain organizations serve as conformance assessment bodies (CABs) that verify a data center’s conformity with TIA-942. TIA enlisted Certac, which provides management services for accreditation and certification bodies, to provide verification of conformance to standards by the CABs and accreditation of the CABs participating in the program.

As part of the TIA’s introduction of this program in August, Edward van Leent, chairman and chief executive officer of EPI Group of Companies, commented, “We have seen a number of enterprise and commercial data centers who have fallen victim to subpar and non-accredited or registered organizations performing audits, leaving the customer at great risk. This official scheme will ensure that only competent organizations will be allowed to perform audits, reducing business risk and protecting the investment of the customer.”

EPI has provided auditing and certification services for TIA-942-compliant data centers for a number of years. In November, EPI announced it received accreditation as a TIA-942 CAB.

Certac operates the website tia-942.org on behalf of TIA. Before the TIA launched its accreditation program, EPI operated the site as part of its own auditing business. TIA says that Certac’s administration of the site establishes it as “one comprehensive source of TIA-942 data center certification information, and no confusion over the content on the site.” The site includes search capabilities through which users can find consulting/auditing companies and can find accredited data center facilities.

DCDV and DCCC

The website describes the two types of audits and certification services: Data Center Design Validation (DCDV) and Data Center Conformity Certification (DCCC).

“The objective of the DCDV is to ensure that the proposed design drawings for new-build or as-built drawings of existing data centers, are complete and that the design, on paper, meets the requirements of the standard. It has an in-depth verification of the design drawings, compared against the rating levels described in ANSI/TIA-942. This phase is especially important for a data center before the build to ensure conformity to the standard once the site is built. The outcome is a comprehensive report indicating the non-conformities and high-level suggestions for improvements. The scope is limited to an offsite review of the design plans and drawings.”

The DCDV service also includes a teleconference with a project team, a review of a corrective action report based on the review, and, assuming a successful audit, the award of the ANSI/TIA-942 Design Conformity Certificate.

The TIA’s objective with the DCCC is “to verify the data center has been implemented in conformity to the validated designs in the DCDV phase and the requirements specified in the ANSI/TIA-942. For new data centers in the design phase, the ideal scenario is for the data center operators/owners to undertake the DCDV, then start construction, and upon completion of the construction, undertake the DCCC.

“For existing data centers, data center owners/operators typically only undertake the DCCC,” the TIA continues. “DCCC comprises an on-site audit of the physical data center facilities against the rating levels described in TIA-942. The outcome is a comprehensive reporting indicating non-conformities, if any. Once all the major non-conformities are addressed, an ANSI/TIA-942 Facilities Conformance Certificate will be issued and the data center will be listed on tia-942.org.”

The DCCC service also includes a review of design documents and each physical facility, as well as a report indicating major and minor non-conformities, an optional teleconference with the project team, and a review of the corrective action report.

Call for caution

Also on the tia-942.org website, TIA strongly cautions data center facilities to employ appropriately qualified designers and consultants. “When seeking conformity to a standard like ANSI/TIA-942, an extra layer of complexity is added to the project and the success relies greatly on the competencies of the consultant and designer, and their level of knowledge and experience with the standard. Data center owners/operators should also ensure that the consultant and/or designer is familiar with the correct version of the standard for which the organization seeks conformity. Standards are living documents and a consultant and/or designer who is familiar with ANSI/TIA-942-A does not necessarily have the right competencies to design a data center that requires conformity to ANSI/TIA-942-B.”

While acknowledging there is no completely foolproof formula for identifying and selecting a designer or consultant, the tia-942.org site says data center operators should take the following steps when evaluating such professionals to work for them.

“Validate whether the consultant/designer has the right educational background. There is quite a difference between designing the electrical subsystem within the computer room versus high-voltage incoming distribution system. In most countries it would even require a different license … Creating a design for a data center requires a team of experts.”

“Validate whether the consultant/designer has the right qualification for the standard to which the data center is going to be designed. For an ANSI/TIA-942-based data center, you must ensure the consultant/designer has a valid CTDC (Certified TIA-942 Design Consultant) certificate. Check whether the certificate is aligned with the correct version of the standard. Also validate whether the certificate is still valid and active.”

“What experience does the consultant/designer have? Ensure that the experience is relevant to the project under scope. For example, a consultant/designer who has experience on a Rated-2, 1000-square-foot project might not have the right experience for a Rated-4, 30,000-square-foot project. Another often-overlooked aspect is to validate whether the project experience is proven.”

Comprehensive information on the TIA’s data center auditing and certification program is available at the tia-942.org website.

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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