While the final costs may not be known for months, early indications are that Thursdays massive power outages posed few problems for technology users and service providers in the Northeastern United States.
Standard processes like having uninterruptible backup systems, diesel generators and secondary data centers—many installed in preparation for Y2K or after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks—left customers from Cleveland to New Jersey to Ottawa in business-as-usual situations by Friday afternoon, according to sources from a variety of businesses.
At financial services firm MasterCard International Inc., headquartered in Purchase, N.Y., directly northeast of Manhattan, "When this event occurred, we didnt even know it happened. I saw nothing on the network." said Artie Ahrens, senior vice president of computer network services, in St. Louis. MasterCard lost power to offices in Detroit, Purchase and Toronto. "Throughout the night we continued to have emergency response calls. Any transactions that hit the MasterCard network were processed."
"Immediately upon the outage occurring, our data processing subsidiary SIAC—Securities Industry Automation Corp.—had their backup generators immediately kick in and therefore we lost no data," said Ray Pellecchia, a spokesman for the New York Stock Exchange, in lower Manhattan.
SIAC itself, also in New York, was able to transmit the day-end and overnight data, officials said. The exchange itself was likewise unaffected, operating on emergency power until about 6 a.m. Friday, when it was able to switch to regular Con Edison power, Pellecchia said. Friday, the exchange "opened pretty much business as usual," he said.
The story was pretty much the same for AT&T Corp., in Bedminster, N.J. "The impact on our customers was minimal," said AT&T spokesman Dave Johnson. The companys hosting, data routing, and voice switching services all have dual emergency power backup, consisting of batteries and diesel generators, he said. The batteries alone are good for eight to 24 hours, he said.
"We probably had 100 of our facilities on emergency backup power," but only two dozen needed it by Friday morning, Johnson said. "I have not heard of any customers having lost data. That doesnt mean some didnt. They wont necessarily tell us."
Systems Administrator Richard Verry, at Childrens Institute in Rochester, N.Y., replaced older UPS systems on his servers Thursday morning.
"Over a month ago we decided to replace them because we had one that failed. I had to schedule an electrician to come in and install the correct power for it. He came in at noon. We started detecting the brownout and spikes about an hour before the blackout. I even left the office for the day about 20 minutes before the blackout hit. They did their job," he said.
With its built-in decentralization, the Internet itself also emerged fairly unscathed, experts at San Mateo, Calif.s Keynote Systems Inc. said. "There are some connectivity problems in New York City itself, nothing affecting the Internet as a whole, no other cities are showing problems," said Lloyd Taylor, Keynotes vice president of technology.
The problems that were seen were mostly at smaller, less resourceful service providers, he said.
eWEEKs Dennis Callaghan and Renee Boucher Ferguson contributed to this story.