Data Center Disaster Preparedness Sometimes Requires a Dose of Robert Burns
NEWS ANALYSIS: There is no substitute for detailed planning, testing and redundancy when it comes to making sure your data center can weather any storm. But sometimes even the best planning isn’t good enough.Calamity descended from the skies around Washington on June 29 in the form of a derecho, a type of weather system so rare most people have never even heard of it. This unusual complex of extremely severe weather had never been known to cross a range of mountains such as the Alleghenies. But this time it happened, and disaster planning went out the window. Amazons huge data center near Dulles International Airport, fully redundant in itself, and served by redundant backup power and redundant power grids, redundant network access went down under the combined onslaught of massive power outages, massive Internet outages, phone line outages and cell system outages. Not only did everything go down, but nobody could call for backup. And, of course, even if the staff had known that this event was happening, they couldnt have traveled there anyway. Most of the roads were blocked.
While we often preach the gospel of preparedness, there are disasters for which no one could prepare. When weather this violent appears out of nowhere, with no warning and no forecasts, there is only so much that anyone or any institution can do. The fact that Amazon was able to get back online and have all of its affected customers fully restored by the next morning was remarkable.