Data center standards govern various aspects of a data center, including the exterior of the facility; the way it's constructed and secured; and how it's powered, cooled and maintained.
While some standards may be legally required based on the facility's location, the data center industry has developed several standards that many facilities use. American National Standards Institute/Building Industry Consulting Services International (BICSI) 002 and ANSI/Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)/Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA)-942 are two common standards. These standards are not required for any data center, but following them can help ensure that the facility and its resources meet the unique needs of any customer using them. In addition, standards help ensure the facility is safe and efficient.
What does data center design encompass?
Many data centers are designed following the ANSI/BICSI 002 and ANSI/TIA/EIA-942 standards. Good design is a fundamental step that ensures the data center operates at peak efficiency, is safe and can scale as needed.
Data center design is the process of modeling and laying out the data center's architecture, IT resources and related facility requirements. It visualizes the concept of the data center before deploying it in the physical facility and an enterprise's IT environment.
Designing a data center typically involves layout and space planning, conceptual designs for infrastructure placement, physical security, reliable power supplies, internal facility operations (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), fire and occupational safety, and maintenance.
The ANSI/BICSI standard
This standard covers the major requirements for data center design, implementation, assessment and operations. It covers the major systems found within data centers, such as building, mechanical, electrical infrastructure, physical and fire security, telecommunication infrastructure, commissioning and maintenance, and colocation planning.
First released in 2010, the ANSI/BICSI 002 standard for data centers was updated in 2014 and again in 2019. It focuses primarily on the traditional data center but now includes ways to apply the content to modular, containerized, edge and hyperscale data centers. The 2019 version also includes information on updated heating and cooling systems, provisioning lithium-ion batteries, support for the Open Compute project and the expansion of the commissioning process.
The TIA standard
This standard specifies the minimum requirements for data centers that cover site location, architectural, electrical, mechanical, fire safety, telecommunication, cabling systems, network design and security requirements.
ANSI/TIA/EIA-942 includes international specifications and standard nomenclature applicable to any size or type of facility. It covers IT architecture and topologies, electrical design, physical security and system redundancy. It also helps to plan for fail-safe operations, protection against disaster, scalability and long-term reliability.
First published in 2005, the ANSI/TIA/EIA-942 standard is updated roughly every five years, with the latest complete version in 2017. The standard is currently under revision and aims to be released in 2023.
Differences between the BICSI and TIA standards
The key difference is that BICSI goes into greater detail than TIA in terms of the scope of mechanical, electrical, telecommunication and thermal systems, and layout and security considerations. The BICSI standard complements the TIA/EIA-942 standard, offering additional information without duplicating content.
TIA offers auditing and certification services for organizations that wish to demonstrate their QA of these standards to their customers and stakeholders. BICSI does not offer any auditing services for this standard but does offer standards certifications for individuals, such as the BICSI Data Center Design Consultant certification.
Many data center professionals consider the TIA-942 standard a baseline, with BICSI 002 regarded as the next level in compliance.
Compliance with BICSI and TIA by data centers
Facility owners are not required to follow the standards when designing their facilities and infrastructure deployments. However, ANSI/BICSI 002 and ANSI/TIA/EIA-942 are excellent starting points for all data centers.
The key is to choose standards and procedures to adhere to and then stick with them. Document any deviations so stakeholders can approve and be transparent with clients. Organizations may have to juggle multiple standards depending on location, industry and client base. The nature of the business and data center facility determine which standards are appropriate.