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IDFC wins tier 3 data center design certification

Harshal Kallyanpur, Special Correspondent

Indian financial services player Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC) has won tier 3 data center design certification from the Uptime Institute for its data center. IDFC claims to be

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the first financial services company in India to win this certification.

Tier 3 design certification is the first step taken by IDFC towards getting its facility certified according to the Uptime Institute’s Tier 3 data center specifications. As a next step, the company will redesign its data center according to design specifications, post which the facility will undergo a site certification from the Uptime Institute.

As part of its IT roadmap, IDFC had plans to centralize critical financial service applications on its primary data center.  Explaining the need for tier 3 data center certification, V C Kumanan, the senior director of IT for IDFC says, “Centralization made it imperative that we provide our stakeholders, foreign investors, and customers with maximum uptime levels. Getting our data center tier 3 certified ensures that an appropriate mechanism is established by choice.”

IDFC first explored tier 3 design certification for its data center facility in June 2010. It analyzed the Uptime Institute’s data center tier standards, and zeroed in on tier 3 data center certification. Kumanan and his team realized that tier 3 certification would provide IDFC with an assured uptime of 99.982 %. In addition, making design changes to IDFC’s facility for tier 3 data center specifications looked feasible from an operational, time and cost point of view. Besides the assurance of adherence to a global best standard, the process provides value for investment, as there is a predictable high uptime and consequently stakeholder satisfaction, says Kumanan. However, getting the certification was not easy.

IDFC had to make changes to an already existing data center, resulting in complications. While the IT team was involved in the data center’s construction, the facilities team ensured redundancies at a data center facility level. Although there was a framework for the tier 3 data center standard, the team required greater detail and understanding of the standard’s specifications. To this end, IDFC appointed Mahalingam Ramasamy, the Managing Director of Netcon, as a consultant. The IDFC team performed a Gap analysis to identify the required data center changes, under Mahalingam’s guidance.

A data center is said to meet tier 3 classification standards, if it has redundancy and concurrent availability built into its infrastructure. Redundancy and concurrent maintainability needs to be ensured — at the capacity and distribution levels. After identification of gaps, recommendations were made to incorporate necessary design document (required for the Uptime Institute’s tier 3 data center design certification). Some of these changes were:

  • While IDFC had two backup power generators for its data center, only one was active. There was no provision to detect generator failure for switch over to the second generator.
  • Additionally, the fuel supply distribution system for backup power generators lacked redundancy. If one fuel line goes down or runs out of fuel, the power would go down. It was essential that these fuel pumps not be powered from a single power source, as well as have dedicated power supplies.
  • Power distribution from the main power distribution panel room to the data center was not concurrently maintainable. While redundancy was implemented with two power supply circuits for power distribution, maintaining one power supply circuit required bringing down of both circuits.

IDFC’s design certification process took about nine months. “Making design changes to an operational data center is quite a challenge. Each change should be evaluated carefully to understand operational, structural, financial and time implications,” says Uma Ramani, the vice president of IT for IDFC. The design document went through two reviews, before IDFC finally got a tier 3 data center design certification from the Uptime Institute.