Underwriters Laboratories gets into the modular datacenter game

Will UL certification become a standard for the datacenter container?
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

There is no shortage of standards bodies that want to get their hands on the datacenter market. A huge amount of equipment and different technologies are implemented in even the smallest datacenter and getting a specific set of requirements recognized as the “standard” for a piece of the datacenter operation. The cost of getting certified to meet standards can be a significant one, and once a standard becomes widely recognized, that certification cost raises the bar for market entry.

Underwriters laboratories, probably the best known entity for safety certification of electric devices (the ubiquitous UL in a circle mark found on your household appliances) has promulgated their UL 2755 standard for modular datacenters. UL is applying this standard to the modular (which they also characterize as “containerized”) datacenter and expect the standard to cover a modular datacenter product as a whole. They are also proposing UL2755 for publication as an ANSI standard worldwide.

IO datacenters announced yesterday that they were the first provider of modular datacenters to achieve this UL certification. They tell us that to acieve the certification they needed to pass a rigorous examination which included everything from risk assessment to documentation review. IO has a unique approach to the modular datacenter market with their current generation datacenter being made of of a standardized modular system (not a shipping container sized block) that can be configured explicitly to meet a client’s needs. Not surprisingly IO is now pushing the UL certification as a must-have for all modular and containerized datacenter providers.

The UL standard covers all of the components of a modular datacenter, IT equipment, power distribution, cooling, and fire prevention/protection systems. A complete container is viewed as a single product that gets certified. This tends to beg the question of whether the certification includes the IT portion of a containerized datacenter or if the certification covers only the box it came in. Many of the components in the modular datacenter will already have their own UL certifications, so it remains to be seen if the need to certify the box will become a driving concern for the modular /containerized datacenter business.

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