UL 3223: New Data Center Certification Standard Introduced

    Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a safety certification company, has introduced a new standard for assessing the reliability of data centers - UL 3223. It describes the criteria by which data center owners can reduce the risk of business disruptions. More details about the standard are described below. / photo Christina Xu CC UL 3223 aims to ensure the reliability and security of the data center and contains parameters for evaluating the key components of the IT infrastructure of companies. The developers of the standard note that it is applicable for both small firms and organizations with complex hybrid infrastructure.






    Paul Schlattman, Senior Vice President, ESD Consulting (the company that helped UL develop the standard), explains : “To prevent or mitigate the consequences of data center failures, providers need to address the most common causes of their occurrence: human errors, software problems, network downtime and server hardware failure. ”

    It is assumed that UL 3223 will encourage the use of advanced technologies in data centers and will contribute to the optimization of infrastructure. At the same time, UL and ESD hope that the new standard will reduce the time for data center audits from several months to several weeks.

    Data Center Evaluation Criteria


    Certification is voluntary, but only one year. For an audit, 10 to 12 people are sent to the data center , each of whom checks the individual components of the data center. Assessed are :

    • Structural and architectural features of the building;
    • Key infrastructure facilities (ventilation, water supply, sewage, etc.);
    • Fire protection systems;
    • Control systems;
    • Network and communication systems;
    • Security systems;
    • Certificates of installed equipment and acts on putting it into operation.

    For successful certification , the following requirements must be met:

    1. Repair and maintenance of all infrastructure components should be carried out without downtime.
    2. Critical data center support systems should have an optimal (for their tasks) reliability level due to redundancy schemes: 2N or N + 1.
    3. Compliance with the requirements for the physical protection of machine rooms (fire protection, security and video surveillance), including those related to personnel access (the use of biometric cards, key cards, etc.), is required.
    4. The data center should have a PUE score of no higher than 1.5 and use freecooling systems.
    5. To pass certification, existing data centers must provide acts on putting all systems into operation, and new ones should invite a representative of a certification organization for the first launch of data center systems.

    After the audit is completed, the audit team evaluates the compliance of the data center with the above criteria and marks Pass or Fail. The standard does not imply any levels, the data center is either being tested or not. In case of failure, the regulation provides for a second audit after making the necessary changes and correcting the shortcomings.


    / photo NTNU CC

    Industry Opinion on the Standard


    The first test on UL 3223 passed the QTS data center in Chicago. The object was inspected by representatives of UL and ESD Consulting. Nabon Marsico, site director for the QTS Chicago facility, noted that obtaining UL certification allowed the data center to gain customer confidence.

    However, not everyone sees the point in certification according to the new standard. Edward van Leent, CEO of EPI (which certifies data centers), believes that the new standard is not very different from existing ones. According to him, UL 3223 evaluates the data center according to the same criteria as, for example, ANSI / TIA-942, ANSI / BICSI-002 or EN-50600.

    In addition, van Leent is not convinced of the advisability of inviting a large number of auditors (10-12 people). According to him, such an “army” can become a “nightmare” for any owner of a data center due to the cost of flights and accommodation. The validity period of the certificate also seems to van Leuen insufficient: “to pass an audit once a year is too often” (compared with an audit every 3 years according to ISO). For these reasons, the expert recommended that UL join the development of already issued standards, and not create new ones.

    Nonetheless UL plancontinue work on the standard. In the future, the company will add additional areas of verification related to trainings and accreditation of personnel, as well as categories of objects (depending on the purpose): cloud, state data centers, etc. Moreover, for each category of data centers in UL plan to develop separate technical requirements.

    About Underwriters Laboratories

    Underwriters Laboratories Inc. - company for standardization and certification in the field of safety. The company has offices in 104 countries, the main of which is located in the United States. Underwriters Laboratories mainly produces safety standards for equipment and materials.



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