Rebuilding for Tomorrow

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2002-09-09 Print this article Print

Anniversary of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reinforces decentralization of operations and accelerates the flow of data centers out of New York.

The cataclysmic events of Sept. 11, 2001, scattered hundreds of Lower Manhattan companies far and wide. One year later, many of those enterprises have re-established flagship offices in the financial district, making sure to keep those offices separate from data operations.

The changes mean that the days of an intensely concentrated—and highly vulnerable—world financial nerve center in Lower Manhattan are over. New Yorks financial district is now just one point—albeit an indispensable one—on data networks where redundancy and resiliency are the rule.

The trend to decentralize critical data is not new. But, while some companies were content before Sept. 11 with a single, off-site backup center, now many are moving their primary data center to a different location from their main business office—and putting the backup center in yet another location. In the wake of Sept. 11, its typically those business offices that are being pulled back most forcefully by the magnet of Manhattan.

"IT has been moving out of Manhattan for some time. But [companies] still want to push the buttons from there," said John Colucci, sales director of SchlumbergerSema Business Continuity Services, which operates a disaster recovery facility in Jersey City, N.J.

Reclaiming a Lower Manhattan presence was essential for the New York Board of Trade, the worlds fourth-largest commodity exchange. "Weve never thought twice about moving back," said Pat Gambaro, senior executive vice president of NYBOT. When its 13 trading pits at 4 World Trade Center were destroyed last September, NYBOT, which trades coffee, sugar, cocoa, orange juice and currency, moved immediately to a backup facility in Queens, N.Y.

Since then, NYBOT has expanded the Queens facility dramatically, multiplying the trading pits from only two to eight and adding traders booths and office space, at a cost of about $6 million. But the expanded backup facility had no backup of its own until two months ago, when a new data center at 39 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, replete with Hewlett-Packard Co. Compaq Himalaya 2 S Series servers, was brought online.

That facility will become the primary data center when, as Gambaro anticipates, NYBOT moves in March next year into a brand-new trading facility on the 13th floor at the New York Mercantile Exchange building at World Financial Center, one block from the vast eight-story hole in the ground where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

When the $30 million, triangular scheme is complete, trades will be initiated at World Financial Center, executed at 39 Broadway and mirrored on identical Himalaya 2 S Series servers in Queens. The pits of the Queens facility will go silent after a year and a half of frenzied activity but will stand ready should disaster strike again.

Like NYBOT, Dow Jones Inc. is executing a three-pointed architecture, with offices in World Financial Center at one extremity. Unlike NYBOT, however, Dow Jones is not moving its main operations back to the city.

The worldwide business news organization gained headlines when its flagship, The Wall Street Journal, reopened a newsroom at 1 World Financial Center, formerly its headquarters, during the summer. But the newspapers editorial and sales nerve centers, as well as its data operations, will remain in South Brunswick, N.J. Backup to South Brunswick is being provided at a site in Secaucus, N.J., which came online last month. The decision to build in Secaucus was part of a comprehensive, $10 million overhaul of Dow Jones business continuity strategy that was undertaken after Sept. 11. But Secaucus will not be a dusty, idle site reserved only for emergencies.

"Were treating the Secaucus site as a secondary site, not just a backup data center," said Dow Jones Vice President Bill Godfrey, in South Brunswick. Secaucus will house operations for the companys real-time news wires starting in December and for, the online edition of The Wall Street Journal, in March, said Godfrey.

Since the company must accomplish the "daily miracle" of getting out worldwide editions of The Wall Street Journal, nothing can be left to chance, said Godfrey. "Were network-redundant, application-redundant and people-redundant." A Synchronous Optical Network ring backed up by T-1 and T-3 lines connects Secaucus, South Brunswick and World Financial Center, he said. "In picking Secaucus, we looked at power grids, storm patterns and traffic patterns." In a sign of the companys willingness to spend money where it needs to, he added, "When we went to [Chairman Peter Kann] and said we needed $2 million for the data center, that meeting took 30 minutes."

Uptown, meanwhile, Cantor Fitzgerald LP, the bond trading company that lost 733 employees in the attacks, moved in June to an office building at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 57th Street. Immediately after the attacks, its surviving staff had been housed in temporary offices all over town. But Cantors data remained where it was before the attacks, mirrored at data centers in Rochelle Park, N.J., and London.

Now, twin DS-3 lines connect the several hundred workers in the Mid-town Manhattan office to Rochelle Park, said Joe Noviello, CIO of ESpeed, the technology subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald.

Cantor has signed a two-year lease on the 57th Street offices and is looking for a permanent location. Whether that will be in Manhattan remains to be seen, said Noviello.

Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which occupied Floors 17 through 31 in the World Trade Centers North Tower, scattered to five temporary Manhattan locations, as well as to facilities in Melville, N.Y., on Long Island, and in Westchester County, N.Y.

In seeking a new permanent home, Empire will not consolidate the bulk of its operations into a single Manhattan facility as before. Instead, it will occupy space at 9 MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, an office building now under construction.

Empire, which lost nine employees and two consultants in the attacks, was in the middle of a project to archive paper documents digitally at the time of the disaster. "A year later, if theres anything people would have wanted, it would have been to have saved more documents in digitized format," said Ann Mottola, assistant vice president of customer service technologies at Empire.

The New York Shipping Authority, which schedules and dispatches longshoremen to shipping sites, breathed a sigh of relief last year when it lost none of its staff in its offices on the 20th floor of the World Trade Center South Tower. Thanks to a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, NYSA employees moved promptly into a SunGard Data Systems Inc. disaster recovery site across the Hudson River in Jersey City.

Since then, the NYSA has moved its operations that handle employee benefits and pensions back to Lower Manhattan in offices at 45 Broadway. The NYSA dispatch operations, meanwhile, were moved to a facility in Iselin, N.J.s, Metropark Center, and the Jersey City facility has returned to backup status, said James Melia, executive vice president for operations.

After years together in the World Trade Center, being apart may take some getting used to for NYSA staff. But the feeling of resiliency is balancing the pangs of separation at NYSA and elsewhere among IT managers who have accepted the realities of a changed world.

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    Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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