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TIA-942: Cookie cutter or cost cutter?

The Telecommunications Industry Association recently published a standard that attempts to address almost every design consideration in the data center. Is it a one-size-fits-all approach to data management or a way for IT managers to reel in costs in data center deployment?

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) -- the people who brought you the CAT standards for unshielded twisted pair cabling -- recently undertook a vast challenge to publish a definitive document encompassing best practices and design considerations for every single aspect of the modern data center.

The standard, entitled Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers, TIA-942, weighs in at 148 pages, and covers everything from site selection to rack mounting methods.

Some data center experts have criticized the document for being a cookie-cutter approach to solving what are often very individual problems. But Herb Congdon, chair of the committee that authored the document, said the standard fills a need and that good information on data center design is scarce.

"[When writing a standard] we usually reference a lot of other documents," Congdon said. "But there just wasn't that much out there related to what we were working on."

There are literally thousands of published standards from TIA, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American National Standards Institute and other agencies. Standards are mutually agreed upon specifications shaped by vendors and outside agencies. And though compliance is not mandatory, most manufacturers need to adhere to them in order to sell things such as network cabling.

While many standards deal with the manufacture of a specific component of the data center, this recent standard is a best practices approach. The committee, made up of TIA member vendors, data center consultants and IT pros, decided to attempt to cover the entire space.

"When you talk about data centers, that term can describe a wide variety of situations. We wanted this document to be applicable for both large and small installations, for new and existing data centers," Congdon said.

And while an organization such as The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has worked for years to create standards for data center cooling -- just one aspect of data center design -- the TIA believes it has tackled a wider view in less time.

But the TIA's publication differs from ASHRAE's in that it targets a different audience and usage. According to Congdon, a big market for TIA's standard is going to be data center managers and CIOs who could use it as a checklist against plans from data center designers.

"A CIO or IT manager could use this as they're going over a new design proposal from a consultant or contractor," Congdon said.

For more information:

IT projects benefit from an outside vantage

Podcast: TIA's Data Center Standard

By standardizing requirements for contractors, companies can save on one of IT's biggest budget items -- IT management salaries.

"In the overall market, if you can standardize deployment [of data center facilities], you're going to save resources," said Joe Clabby, vice president and practice director with Boston-based Summit Strategies. "Storage managers, network managers -- those people are expensive. Anything you can do to make management easier is going to save money."

The publication is available in either hardcopy or .pdf for $250 through IHS Global Engineering Documents.

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