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A new rating system for Data Centres could prevent outages - Interview with PTS Consulting

By modernising the Data Centre rating system could we have helped avoid or minimize many of the recent Data Centre outages that knocked out connectivity for hundreds of businesses.   Interview with Andrew Green, MD PTS Consulting.

Over the last twelve months, numerous high profile data centre outages have been observed at the likes of Level3, Telecity, Colo4, Equinix, and NTT, resulting in hundreds of businesses going offline and hitting companies that use the affected locations not only for hosting, but also for connectivity.
These outages are the latest in a line of slip-ups for Data Centre providers and cloud computing firms but could this all have been prevented? The incidents stemmed from a variety of issues, from power outages in the case of Level3 and Telecity, to electrical component failures (in the case of Colo4), to networking issues at NTT. In some cases the outages were so severe, they physically damaged equipment.

“Global infrastructure also means global outages,” says Andrew Green, Group Board Director PTS Consulting.  “Historical statistics have shown that most Data Centre outages are through human error, but some of the recent high-profile outages were caused by failure on the infrastructure side; all of which are avoidable.”

There are a number of systems used globally to classify the performance and availability of Data Centre facilities, but not all focus on the same components.  According to Andrew Green, “All are incomplete systems, which don’t have the levels of scrutiny to properly consider and foresee a catastrophic failure like what happened with some of the recent outages.  A system with a more holistic, open approach could reduce the risk of failure and prevent failures from impacting businesses.”

Explained Green: “The current Data Centre rating systems are not fit for purpose in the new world of IT delivery especially where we are purchasing IT delivered over the cloud. With just four distinct levels to separate basic physical infrastructure design to the most stringent, fail-proof facility offering 99.995% service availability, there needs to be a more comprehensive method to help better understand a Data Centre’s resilience”.

A better understanding of the risk-profile and the fact that not all Data Centres have been created equal may have prevented outages in recent examples above, which is why Andrew Green says the currently adopted tiering system needs to fundamentally change.

  • PTS Consulting, a global ICT services firm, has been lobbying for change and introduced its own proprietary STARS methodology and tool to more holistically assess availability of data centre facilities
  • STARS evaluates a Data Centre’s resilience, redundancy and scale of infrastructure along with operational maturity of the site; it is different to the other systems in the industry and has 21 assessment levels; providing a more granular understanding and analysis of a Data Centre’s infrastructure

According to Green: “In the examples above, we are confident that the STARS system would have identified areas of weakness and warned the owners that it could not meet the SLAs promised.”

  • PTS Consulting uses a proprietary STARS  methodology and tool to assess facility availability levels and estimate investment against risk for the lifecycle of Data Centre; this can be done even in pre-existing, operational sites
  • STARS conveys information suited for both management level as well as in-depth technical reviews.  The information can be summarised in graphs and charts.
  • In the future, STARS will look to add additional components such as location based risk, energy assessments, and metrics for evaluating compute and cloud portfolios.

About PTS Consulting:

Founded in 1983, PTS Consulting PLC provides its clients with global ICT Professional Services, Managed Services and Resourcing solutions; specialising in Corporate Relocations and Data Centres. With 17 offices in financial centres that include London, Tokyo and New York PTS provides services to customers such as Morgan Stanley, Nomura and RBS. PTS has successfully delivered high-value, vendor independent solutions to its clients in 270 cities in over 75 countries and in some of the most demanding environments, and has plans to further expand in the education, healthcare and oil-and-gas markets on a global basis.

In 2012, PTS Consulting PLC, the world class international IT Consulting and Project Management firm, was awarded and ranked in The Sunday Times PwC Ones to Recognise of firms to watch in the future.

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