This analyst opinion highlights the importance of data center standards, keeping up-to-date, and participating in shaping the future of the industry.

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A standard is an agreed upon document that establishes technical specifications, frameworks, and procedures. As new technologies and approaches emerge, standards need to evolve in order to enable industries to develop and thrive. This note highlights the importance of data center standards, keeping up to date, and participating in shaping the future of the industry. Vendors benefit from standards to guarantee their products and solutions are or will be well-prepared for whatever is next.

Standards are key to guaranteeing the desired performance

As an experienced data center industry practitioner and contributor to multiple data center standard committees, I have witnessed the importance of participating in and staying up-to-date with new standards and best practices. Data centers shall satisfy stringent technical requirements to guarantee reliability, availability, and security, among many parameters. At the same time, technologies and equipment are continuously being improved, so standards also need to evolve to enable industries to develop new solutions and thrive. For example, nowadays a wave of new technologies is enabling higher efficiency and sustainability, from planning to operations.

But what are standards? Standards can be understood as agreed upon published documents that establish technical specifications, frameworks, or procedures. As standards are adopted and applied in many regions or globally, they leverage an ecosystem of companies, organizations, and professionals with similar goals. Meanwhile, when users are confident that solutions will work as expected based on standards, they are more likely to adopt them, so it can also be a competitive advantage.

As in many other industries, standards and best practices in the data center industry are the rational way to plan, design, build, and operate data centers. Some standards, such as national and local codes, are mandatory, while others, like performance standards, may be optional. Many organizations like TIA (Telecommunication Industry Association), ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International Inc.), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), ANSI (American National Standards Institute), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and others have contributed to the creation of standards and best practices for the data center industry. Governments have also imposed regulations on data centers, and today they aim for more efficient and sustainable facilities.

Standards and best practices continually evolve, adapting to novel needs and addressing new key issues and challenges. Data centers must be designed, built, and operated to meet the minimum standards, assuring basic performance while reducing risk. However, complying with mandatory standards does not guarantee achieving higher performance, efficiency, or sustainability. In general, optional standards and best practices contribute to achieving these goals.

Participation in working groups benefits all

Different standards development organizations (SDOs) work on different standards. These are member-supported organizations that lead the development and review of specific standards to meet industry needs. In general, they are volunteer working groups open to anyone who wishes to contribute by enabling collaboration for developing or updating standards, providing technical expertise and innovation, driving global participation, and pursuing the ongoing advancement and promotion of new concepts. Once the working group reaches a consensus, the initial draft is published, and then the final version is released through different ballot comments and technical discussions.

To mention some examples, the TIA TR-42 engineering committee is responsible for the ANSI/TIA-942 (Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers). Similarly, the ASHRAE 90.4 project committee is responsible for the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 90.4 (Energy Standard for Data Centers), and the data center BICSI standard committees are responsible for the ANSI/BICSI-002 (Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices) and BICSI-009 (Data Center Operations and Maintenance Best Practices). The previously mentioned data center standards and best practices identify guidelines for planning, designing, building, and operating data centers, covering infrastructure, site location, and architectural, electrical, mechanical, telecommunications, safety, and security issues. Currently, all these standards are under revision, so new releases are expected by 2023 or 2024.

Based on someone’s interests and area(s) of expertise, they can contribute as an individual or on behalf of their organization. This could be seen as a professional development opportunity, encouraging the exchange of ideas with peers while staying up-to-date on novel and disruptive technologies. Ultimately, participation in working groups benefits product development, where innovative solutions help shape the industry and shed light on what is next.

Bottom line

In a global digital economy with emerging new technologies and markets, standards help to set guidelines and frameworks while democratizing access for companies to engage and innovate effectively. The benefits, both individual and collective, are substantial. Contributors share their expertise to help refine existing documents or develop new ones. Learnings are then applied to developing innovative solutions that enable a stronger positioning of companies in the market, as well as evolution in the industry as a whole. Finally, I would like to encourage younger professionals to explore participating in standards committees to bring a fresh perspective, which is always needed.


Further reading

2023 Trends to Watch: Data Center Physical Infrastructure (December 2022)

“The battery market is ramping up – and China is leading the race” (October 2022)

“High power rating UPS open new possibilities for data centers” (October 2022)

“Finding the low hanging fruit through data center operational maturity levels” (September 2022)

“Smart grid ready UPS for an even more sustainable data center” (August 2021)

“Data center risk assessment: A decision-making tool” (July 2021)

“Data centers: Energy consumption is all about workloads” (June 2021)


Moises Levy, PhD. Senior Principal Analyst, Data Center Power and Cooling, Cloud and Data Center Research Practice