Major data centers prove their mettle with Irene

Reports from around the Web indicate major data centers were well prepared for Irene’s trouble.

Hurricane (and later Tropical Storm) Irene has left a lot of damage, and more is expected as flood waters continue to wreak havoc in the northeast. There are reports this morning that 38 people have lost their lives. Hurricane preparedness up and down the coast and the fact that Irene hit as a Category 1 rather than a 3 has, no doubt, kept greater damages and loss of life at bay. The same could be said for data center planning and preparedness.

I’ve been checking online posts and reports about how well data centers fared on the east coast, and so far the news looks good. According to this article on Gov Info Security, it appears most data centers operated by governments, hospitals and financial systems stayed strong through the storm. Water has knocked out one data center in Vermont, where severe flooding is impacting that state. The state government’s web site reports that the Waterbury State Office complex has sustained significant water damage as a result of Irene, which apparently took out some servers and hardware, including routers. It is estimated that it could be two weeks or more before this facility will be fully operational, according to the state’s site.

Gov Info Security reports that the Vermont government backed up data before Irene hit so critical information is secured at a remote site. The article also notes that Irene caused power fluctuations at the state of New Hampshire’s data centers, but backup generators and uninterruptible power supply systems kept servers functioning. Minimal flooding at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, which was evacuated during the storm, caused some water damage in peripheral portions of the IT department, but Gov Info Security reports that the IT department was well prepared and shut down all phone systems, the computer network and all applications before Irene hit, and that all information systems were restored Sunday.

In this article in the New York Times, it is reported that the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) assessed the operational readiness of its data center facilities (which are based in New Jersey) and they were ready for Monday’s opening. According to this article, the NYSE, the Nasdaq Stock Market, Direct Edge, BATS Global Markets and -- the four main national exchange operators – are all operating normally. All four use computing facilities in Weehawken, Carteret, Secaucus and Mahwah, with backups in Nutley, Clifton and out of state. The article also states that Direct Edge technicians inspected systems at its primary data center facility in Secaucus, N.J. and found no damage and all systems operating normally. BATS Global Markets said none of its data centers were affected by Irene and that the exchanges had consulted throughout the weekend with the Securities and Exchange Commission and "the decision was made by the exchanges and the SEC that all markets would open on time," on Monday, according to the article.

Rich Miller, founder and editor oof Data Center Knowledge, posted this impressive report on how key East Coast data centers held up. According to Miller, the data centers operated without any loss of services to customers, although some did have to rely on generator power during utility outages and others had to plug minor leaks. Quality Technology Services (QTS), headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., and which operates a data center in Richmond, Va., for example, transferred to generator power to keep service flowing in its operations, where there are 4 distinct data center buildings with 183,000 square feet of raised floor, Miller reports. Meanwhile, Equinix, which is headquartered in Redwood City, Calif, but operates facilities around the world, said there was no downtime at any of its East Coast facilities. But the colocation provider had to take care of some small water leaks at its data centers in Ashburn, Va., Philiadelphia, and New Jersey facilities, according to Miller’s article.

The reports are definitely good news for the IT world. Don’t anyone let their guard down, however. The official hurricane season still has another two months to go. Besides, Newly-annointed Tropical Storm Katia is churning out in the Atlantic. Though it is still too early determine if any land areas will be affected by her, she’s forecast to become a hurricane this week.

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