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The Life of Ken Brill

With the tragic loss of Mr. Brill to cancer, both the IT industry and the global tech community have lost a true innovator and champion. Mr. Brill was responsible for the creation of data center standardization, and was rightly known around the globe as “The Father of Data Centers.”

After starting his career in power supplies for the IT industry during the 1970s, Brill became a consultant for IT firms. Finding the data center industry lacking in comprehensive standards for layout, safety and power management, he founded the Uptime Institute in 1993. By the late ‘90s, his Tier IV data center ranking system—which evaluates data center uptime, power management and tolerances—was gaining worldwide acceptance as the gold standard by which data centers may be judged.

Tier IV was built upon the standards that preceded it (Tiers I-III) but also radically transformed the expectations—and capacity—of the modern data center. Brill’s Tier IV standards improved total power output and introduced power redundancy to make data centers more fault-tolerant. It also reduced site downtime to just four-tenths of an hour each year, improving site availability to an astounding 99.995% (averaged over five years). Without Tier IV, many of the performance and uptime standards hosting customers expect wouldn’t exist—or, would exist in radically less efficient forms.

The Tier IV standard was not Mr. Brill’s only stroke of genius, however; in 2000, he was awarded a patent for a dual power supply for servers, which let the machine could keep running even if the main supply failed. This critical upgrade improved server uptimes significantly and helped mitigate or even prevent catastrophic site failures. Ever dedicated to the universal improvement of data center efficiency, Mr. Brill declined to charge royalties for his innovation.

In addition to his data center innovations, Mr. Brill was also well-known for a 2007 presentation in which he asserted Moore’s Law did not apply equally to all aspects of technology, and the doubling rate of power management resources was insufficient to keep pace with the demands of other technological advances. His clarion call for greater power efficiency is considered by many to be the impetus for the “greening” of data centers (and, consequently, many Web hosting providers) in the latter part of the 2010s.

Although Mr. Brill is no longer with us, his legacy—ongoing innovation in power management and redundancy, as well as worldwide commitment to continuous improvement in data center management—will no doubt continue to shape the tech industry well into the future.

The Life of Ken Brill

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