Lawyer Bait

The views expressed herein solely represent the author’s personal views and opinions and not of anyone else - person or organization.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Seismic Shift of Data Center Planning

Friends of mine know that I have been beating on a drum for over 15 years about proper site selection for data centers. In fact I have recently blogged about it again and with all that is happening in Japan, it got me thinking even more about it. The other thing I have also spent more time thinking about is disaster recovery for obvious reasons.

I will say it again - site selection is the most important feature of a data center. The 9.0 earthquake merely reinforces that in a big way. I would not want to be a data center owner/operator in silicon valley - 10 years ago or now. The two biggest reasons are:

1. Seismic activity
2. Logistics post disaster

The first reason is more obvious today beacuse of the Japan earthquake. While well designed in and of themselves - they were not designed to withstand a 9.0. Logical oversight in my opinion. If the worst earthquake to date was 6, designing one for 2000 times worse seems logical. Until it happens.

The second reason is even more impactful when we we look at not only the immediate aftermath of the earthquake but of the tsunami that hit right afterwards. I have seen about 30 minutes of videos and my layman observation is it is worse than a flood because the earthquake loosens everything and gives it mobility and when you add a wall of water to move debris around - and by debris I mean cars, buildings, and dumpsters - it clogs streets with several feet of debris to have to move to make pathways passable again. This means that people cannot get to or leave the data center, and fuel deliveries for generators are hampered, service vehicles cannot get to them and in some cases entry ways and exits are blocked at the data center itself.

So what are some solutions?

Take site selection seriously. Look at your disaster recovery plans - not which data center your customer data will fail over to - but the logistic issues you will be faced with in the event of a real disaster happening. Is there food and water for employees? How far away is the fuel for the generators? Are there multiple ways to get it there? What happens if public transit cannot operate? Can you bike or canoe your way there if necessary? What about the conduits carrying electricity and telecom to the site? Can they withstand a ground shift of 20 feet (Japan is 13 feet closer to the US after the earthquake). How far away are the power plants? What is their capability to provide service? How will they do this? What is the wind direction? If you are near railroad tracks, what is carried on them that is toxic or can close pathways to and from the facility? Who are your neighbors? Is there anything that can float or blow into your facility? Into the infrastructure yard?

Things to avoid - don't base a decision on how quick you can get in and out for a site tour. Don't think about how easy it is to get to and from the office/data center, look around the facility at the roads, the access points, railroad tracks (especially active ones), flight paths (remember 9/11 when they grounded all planes and sent those in the air to the nearest airport?), and don't think something bad won't happen because it never has. is how to reach me.

Ask the right questions and invest