What is Tier IV Data Center? Snapshot of a Tier IV certification.

Bruno Fery, Head of Data Centers, EBRC
By 31/12/2019
Banking, Insurance & Fintech
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What is Tier 4 Data Center: definition

Tier standards define the level of availability of the Data Centers. Tier I is the basic level that is non-redundant, unable to cope with failures or hotfix requirements. In such cases, the level of failure could lead to several dozen hours of unavailability over the course of a year. Conversely, the highest level, Tier IV, is highly resistant to potential failures. Only Tier IV, which is called “fault-tolerant” can, through the redundancy of its equipment, come close to “zero failure” level and therefore offer close to 100% availability.

The Tier availability levels are based on a set of criteria covering the site’s mechanical, electrical and structural features, as well as the operating processes and how well they are carried out by the teams responsible for carrying them out on a daily basis, whether for maintenance activities or incident response activities (failure, fire, etc.). This makes it possible to align the infrastructure design with the objectives of the business which will use its services. Entrusting data to Data Center service provider is a major decision which requires obtaining information about the guarantees offered, and the Tier certification granted by the Uptime Institute meets that need.

Tier IV Data Center: a relatively new certification

In the late 1990s, Uptime Institute developed a globally-recognised system for categorising Data Centers based on the typology of their critical infrastructures, ranging from Tier I to Tier IV for the highest-performance infrastructures. Each Data Center can obtain a Tier certification following an in-depth audit performed by Uptime Institute. They enable businesses to ensure that their services meet a certain standard, as audited by an independent body using international reference measurements.
In 2005, some clients expressed a preference for being hosted in a Tier IV Data Center. Back then, although white papers were published there was no formal certification process.

This is why we decided in that year to build the first Tier-IV-ready Data Center in Luxembourg. Subsequently, in 2013, the Resilience Centre South was certified as a Tier IV Constructed Facility, becoming the very first Data Center in Luxembourg, the third in Europe, and the ninth in the world to obtain this highest certification level.

Clients managing sensitive data  must trust their IT service provider to guarantee high availability and high performance for their critical services and networks. Over the years, EBRC has developed unique expertise in designing, implementing and operating critical IT infrastructure, delivering on our promises and providing very high levels of resilience and security.

Tier IV Data Centers use state-of-the-art infrastructure to offer constant availability. Redundant hosting capabilities ensure that clients’ systems and data are safe in all Tier IV certified fault tolerant Data Centers. They are built to “design and constructed facility” standards.
The certification issued by Uptime Institute is the  only tangible assurance of quality delivered by their Data Center service provider.

Why obtain Tier IV "Constructed Facility" certification?

Uptime Institute’s international Tier IV certification, much like the ISO 27001, ISO 20000 and ISO 22301 standards, enables us to proves the quality of offering as an IT service provider. This international standard is a prerequisite for growing business with global companies which is EBRC’s case with more than 400 clients from 45 countries.

Selecting a Data Centrer is frequently the first step taken by clients as part of their strategy for developing business in EuropeIt is the central point from where central decision-making activities are based. The Tier IV certification is a clear guarantee of the expertise acquired, conducted by independent audits. “Ultimately this saves our clients a lot of time,” explained Bruno Fery.

This certification is the insurance for a company of the high availability and confidentiality of its data, since a Tier-IV Data Center displays 99.995% of availability or less than 26 minutes of cumulative downtime per year. These IT infrastructures match the needs for companies such as Finance, FinTech & RegTech, Health & Life Science, International Institutions, Security-Defense-Space, Online Services and Operators of Essential Services.

How does Tier IV Data Center benefit gaming industries?

VALVE, the Seattle based world leader in online gaming, wanted to offer their European customers an optimal gaming experience with continuous operations, high availability and low latency time. EBRC set up their entire European infrastructure in just a few weeks in Tier 4 Data center. They are benefiting from the excellent connectivity available in Luxembourg.

Other industries, such as in the FinTech space, also have similarly high requirements.”

What activities does the Tier IV Data Center support? How does it achieve this?

EBRC offers a range of comprehensive, integrated IT services across six business lines: advisory, managed services, cloud, security, resilience (Business Continuity) and Data Centre. This positioning enables each client to develop their projects from top to bottom, and this with a single provider which is fully versed in the intricacies of each IT component. We have modelled four pathways to meet our clients’ expectations: digital transformation, tailored projects, start-up and innovation, and business development in Europe. Capitalising on our experience provides optimised responses and reduced lead times.

EBRC’s offering was initially shaped by the financial sector’s requirement to integrate security “by design” into their infrastructure. Today security has increasingly become a priority in every industry: banking, insurance, other financial businesses, government, e-commerce, health, FinTech, defense, state institutions, and space.

In 2018, EBRC crystallised a cross-cutting approach to Cyber-Resilience offering crisis management and guaranteeing Business Continuity. This approach makes maintaining our clients’ business operations a priority. Starting with a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), there are seven key steps to the process of continuous improvement:

  1. Prepare
  2. Identify
  3. Protect
  4. Detect
  5. Analyse
  6. Respond
  7. Recover

This process is also based on ISO standards.

Cyber-Resilience = ISO 31000 + ISO 27001 + ISO 22301 + ISO 22316.

It also uses very sophisticated protection and response facilities such as a CERT and a SOC, both of which EBRC has.

What are the advantages of Tier IV Data Centers? What challenges has it enabled you to meet?

A Tier IV Data Center incorporates all the capabilities found in tier 1, 2, and 3. In addition, all tier 4 power and cooling components are 2N fully redundant. This means that if any single power or cooling infrastructure component fails in a tier 4 Data Center, processing will continue without issue
Our methods are based on Uptime Institute’s principle of Starting with the goal in mind,. This was particularly the case when aligning our infrastructures to operational needs; considering our clients’ requirements, CAPEX, OPEX and Tier IV objectives. Each test was prepared ahead of the TCCF (Tier Certification of Constructed Facility) process:

  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Procedure Method
  • Emergency Operating Procedures

Technology behind Tier IV Data Center

Another successfully completed major challenge involved ensuring that state-of-the-art technology for carbon footprint reduction was in line with Tier IV criteria. To achieve this, EBRC opted to invest in more expensive technologies which are significantly more efficient in terms of energy consumption. EBRC was thus able to reduce its carbon emissions by 10,000 tonnes per year thanks to this investment in new technology.

Combine the latest carbon-footprint reduction technology with Tier IV criteria:

  • Kyoto wheels: cooling using indirect air with an adiabatic exchanger as a free cooling system
  • Use of stored rainwater
  • IP-Bus topology for UPS capacity components and distribution channels
  • Racks equipped with aisles channelling cold air in order to optimise energy performance
  • Natural “free cooling” used and further optimised by pulverised water spray

Some key facts about EBRC Data Centers

With five interconnected Data Centers, for a total in excess of 17,000 m² of private and shared server space spread out across Luxembourg, EBRC offers state-of-the-art infrastructures meeting the highest client requirements. EBRC is a Luxembourg-based company offering network connectivity that provides access to 70% of European GDP within a radius of under 500 km. In addition, a direct fibre optic link connects the European Reliance Centre East to SES, the world leading communications satellite operator. More than 70 satellites in two separate orbits (geo-synchronous equatorial orbit - GEO, and medium Earth orbit - MEO), SES provides clients in all industries with video distribution and data transfer services.

Procedure and team behind EBRC Tier IV Data Centers

Obtaining Tier IV Constructed Facility certification for the Resilience Centre South was quite a challenge. That Data Centrer was the first of three to undergo an on-site audit conducted by experts from Uptime Institute. Certification was achieved after auditors conducted breakdown simulations while the system was operational. Our clients were able to follow this certification process. This required close communication between our teams and our clients’ teams, and this experience helped build additional trust. In practice, 63 critical tests were performed over the course of a week. “EBRC’s Data Centrer services team had to work effectively under considerable pressure. In the end, the feedback from our clients was excellent”, said Bruno Fery.

“What most impressed was not the “things”, but rather the human aspect. The most compelling message taken from this EBRC TCCF demonstration is not the technical capabilities of the facility, which are significant, but the commitment of management and the engineering staff. Bruno Fery has truly empowered his engineering staff. All high-performance organisations are committed to the contribution of their human assets to the organisation, and EBRC exemplifies this corporate thinking and culture. I expect we will hear much more about EBRC and its successes.” Ed Rafter, Principal of Uptime Institute, June 2013.