Multiple Power Grids

By eweek  |  Posted 2007-11-12 Print this article Print

Vizard: Do you see companies working together more? Because I mean its almost inconceivable how even this company could operate if seven or eight other entities that were linked to werent able to operate. Any one or two of them could probably take an "if they go, we go." And so therere all these relationships between dependencies and the systems. How do you kind of A) map those and discover those, and then B) plan for, you know, Plan B around what if this isnt here because everybodys assumptions is that certain things are always going to be there and they may not be there.

Spencer: Well exactly, I mean you can imagine, for example, that this building would have a hard time functioning without power. Im not sure whether youve got generators to back it up or whatever backup systems you have but you may not. Certainly data centers are trying to do the best they can but the powers a big issue. And obviously services. You know, what types of services are you going to have: wide area services, connectivity, network services. So I know again that most organizations today at the enterprise level are - we seem to see them focusing on things like power and services. They realize that even though they may have local backup facilities and power facilities where they can generate power but they still are dependent upon all these other services. And it is a big focus. In fact, when the Department of Homeland Security recently put out an RFI for their second data center, one of the mandates in it was to have it in a different power grid than the first backup data center. So they were thinking about things like that.

Vizard: And thats more likely to be our next big emergency rather than some cataclysmic event. It may just be a series of brownouts caused by some, you know, happenstance that hits some grid in Ohio that takes out the rest of the Eastern seaboard.

Spencer: I didnt realize that there are actually three major grids in the country: Eastern, Central and Western. And actually, the whole Eastern could go down at one point. And thats why they wanted to make sure that they had the second data center in a different power grid.

Vizard: I always thought that was a West Coast problem till that happened to the East Coast myself. Is there some kind of council or some kind of group that you guys are part of that the federal government puts together that kind of says, you know, lets all get together a couple of times a year and kind of, you know, think about best practices around that space? How do people tap into that or become part of that or gain any knowledge around that?

Spencer: Probably the most visual group is a group in the Washington, D.C., area, which youd expect a federal group to be, called ACT/IAC, American Council for Technologys Industry Advisory Council, which is made up of CIOs within the civilian agencies as well as DOD and industry leaders. And we participate in that organization. There must be at least 15 or 20 different meetings per month. They have an annual conference where all the CIOs and all the industry people get together every year. So I think that particular organization has a lot of [special interest groups] that theyve set up both on specialty areas to develop white papers and pursue certain challenges from a technology perspective and try to assist the government in developing solutions.

Vizard: Just taking a step back. But despite all the talk, what percentage of the companies that you see out there, in your opinion, are prepared to handle some kind of catastrophic disaster event in some kind of reasonable fashion: keep their business uninterrupted today. I mean is it still single digits?

Spencer: I think its still single digits to be honest with you. We see a lot of people motivated and working and concerned, but I think youre absolutely right that I think its still a very small group that are - if any, that are really fully prepared for another incident.

Vizard: Do you think that the insurance companies that work with these companies are a place that maybe that we can get a little more impetus going, a little more push? Because, you know, as I look back over other things that have been successful in other industries, particularly in healthcare, it always seems like theres an insurance company at the backend of that process with a whip thats saying, you know, ladies and gentlemen, were going to do this because were trying to mitigate our risk.

Spencer: Well, thats interesting. Actually, one of the things that we have experienced was that insurance companies - a lot of organizations are trying to get more control over their infrastructure just so that in the event something does occur, they can define what it was that was impacted. So they can actually give the insurance company a list of the assets that were actually affected by the incident as part of the recovery. But you know, this is an area that Im not really that familiar with in terms of how they might be able to drive change within the industry to impact disaster recovery.

Vizard: All right. Well, that may be a challenge that we lay out there to the insurance industry right now.



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