Rolling blackouts in northern California last week failed to disable critical data centers, but the power disruption caused many networking companies to close down office operations.
In Sunnyvale, where such companies as Exodus Communications operate data centers and service providers such as Loudcloud run network operations centers (NOCs), the first blackout occurred at noon on Jan. 17. Since only essential equipment was backed up with battery systems and diesel generators, lights in the office buildings and computers in less-than-crucial departments — such as marketing — went dead.
So, most of the high-tech crowd went to lunch.
That caused unexpected gridlock both on the roadways and in local eateries. Many employees ended up scarfing junk food from nearby vending machines.
"[Traffic] is something we havent thought of," said Scott Dillan, vice president of marketing at Loudcloud and architect of the companys power backup system for its NOCs.
But with more blackouts looming, some predicted that the real trouble is still ahead.
"The smaller data centers are more often than not lacking in sufficient backup capacity, and generally have little or no plans for alternative power resources," said Karyn Ulriksen, director of network operations at PublicHost, a SiteStream company.
The power outages did cause some jitters among Silicon Valley manufacturers.
After a meeting between industry representatives and state officials, Carl Guardino, president and chief executive of the 190-member Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, told reporters at a hastily convened press conference that the damage from just one day of blackouts was "in the thousands of millions [of dollars] in Silicon Valley."
A previous blackout on June 14 cost the groups members more than $100 million in lost productivity, he said, from $1 million per hour to $1 million per minute, depending on the company.
Such horror stories make some Internet companies question their commitment to building new facilities in Silicon Valley.
"We want to grow in California. Unless we find at the end of the day we cant," said Ellen Hancock, president and CEO of Exodus.