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Could a Category 5 Hurricane Take Down East Coast Data Centers?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the cloud-versus-real-cloud dept.

Cloud 214

TheNextCorner writes "With more data moving into the cloud, there is an increasing danger of data loss when one of these cloud computing data centers fails. Hurricanes pose a real threat to infrastructure located in Virginia and North Carolina, where Google, Apple & Facebook have opened large data centers. 'Where would the most damaging hit be? It's debatable, but the most detrimental hit may be in Virginia. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has one of their major centers in Northern Virginia. ... In a study involving millions of people, a third of those surveyed reported visiting a website every day that used Amazon's infrastructure. In 2011, Amazon's S3 cloud stored 762 billion objects. It's possible that Amazon's cloud alone holds an entire 1% of the Internet.' Could a category 5 Hurricane become a problem for these cloud data centers and take down parts the Internet?"

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214 comments

Category 5 Hurricane (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#40920311)

Could a category 5 Hurricane become a problem for these cloud data centers and take down parts the Internet?"

Only if they haven't switched to Cat 6 cables yet.

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (-1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 2 years ago | (#40920435)

I got a sudden chill when I thought if someone like Bush jr. where president was/wasn't making decisions. Reflecting on the public record of actions taken during the Katrina event; Data Center loss would be a trival challenge. I'm thinking Falling Skys [fallingskies.com] , but without confused aliens walking around tripping over stuff.

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920579)

Shut up about Bush until you can show me Obama's academic records.

"And finally, Bos, I just want to say thank you for Youkilis." –joking at a fundraiser in Boston about the Red Sox trading their beloved slugger Kevin Youkilis to Chicago White Sox, Obama's hometown team. The line drew boos from the audience. (June 25, 2012)

"When I meet with world leaders, what's striking -- whether it's in Europe or here in Asia..." -mistakenly referring to Hawaii as Asia while holding a press conference outside Honolulu, Nov. 16, 2011

"We're the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad." —Cincinnati, OH, Sept. 22, 2011

"We're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you're providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy." —on Wall Street reform, Quincy, Ill., April 29, 2010

"One such translator was an American of Haitian descent, representative of the extraordinary work that our men and women in uniform do all around the world -- Navy Corpse-Man Christian Brossard." –mispronouncing "Corpsman" (the "ps" is silent) during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., Feb. 5, 2010 (The Corpsman's name is also Christopher, not Christian)

"The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries." --Tampa, Fla., Jan. 28, 2010

"UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? It's the Post Office that's always having problems." –attempting to make the case for government-run healthcare, while simultaneously undercutting his own argument, Portsmouth, N.H., Aug. 11, 2009

"The Cambridge police acted stupidly." —commenting on a white police officer's arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home in Cambridge, Mass., at a news conference, July 22, 2009

"The reforms we seek would bring greater competition, choice, savings and inefficiencies to our health care system." --in remarks after a health care roundtable with physicians, nurses and health care providers, Washington, D.C., July 20, 2009

"It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There's a lot of -- I don't know what the term is in Austrian, wheeling and dealing." --confusing German for "Austrian," a language which does not exist, Strasbourg, France, April 6, 2009

"No, no. I have been practicing...I bowled a 129. It's like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something." --making an off-hand joke during an appearance on "The Tonight Show", March 19, 2009 (Obama later called the head of the Special Olympics to apologize)

"I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances." --after saying he had spoken with all the living presidents as he prepared to take office, Washington, D.C., Nov. 7, 2008 (Obama later called Nancy Reagan to apologize)

"I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." -- defending his tax plan to Joe the Plumber, who argued that Obama's policy hurts small-business owners like himself, Toledo, Ohio, Oct. 12, 2008

"What I was suggesting -- you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith..." --in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who jumped in to correct Obama by saying "your Christian faith," which Obama quickly clarified (Watch video clip)

"I'm here with the Girardo family here in St. Louis." --speaking via satellite to the Democratic National Convention, while in Kansas City, Missouri, Aug. 25, 2008

"Let me introduce to you the next President -- the next Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden." --slipping up while introducing Joe Biden at their first joint campaign rally, Springfield, Illinois, Aug. 23, 2008

"Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee -- which is my committee -- a bill to call for divestment from Iran as way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon." --referring to a committee he is not on, Sderot, Israel, July 23, 2008

"Let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's. It will be a strong friend of Israel's under a McCain...administration. It will be a strong friend of Israel's under an Obama administration. So that policy is not going to change." --Amman, Jordan, July 22, 2008

"How's it going, Sunshine?" --campaigning in Sunrise, Florida

"On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong."

"Hold on one second, sweetie, we're going to do -- we'll do a press avail." --to a female reporter for ABC's Detroit affiliate who asked about his plan to help American autoworkers (Watch video clip)

"I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go." --at a campaign event in Beaverton, Oregon (Watch video clip)

"Why can't I just eat my waffle?" --after being asked a foreign policy question by a reporter while visiting a diner in Pennsylvania

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." --explaining his troubles winning over some working-class voters

"The point I was making was not that Grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, you know, there's a reaction that's been bred in our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our society."

"Come on! I just answered, like, eight questions." --exasperated by reporters after a news conference

"You're likeable enough, Hillary." --during a Democratic debate

"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died -- an entire town destroyed." --on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920713)

How the hell is my post marked as offtopic when it is a direct response to "I got a sudden chill when I thought if someone like Bush jr. where president".

You people really are sucking up the koolaid there aren't you?

Good grief.

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920835)

How the hell is my post marked as offtopic when it is a direct response to "I got a sudden chill when I thought if someone like Bush jr. where president".

Because it IS off-Topic you moran. Kudos for keeping the copy/pasta ready in case anybody is bashing politics and you can take over the thread. You're still a wanker...

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921043)

No it's not off topic you moran. You are off topic.

Re:moran (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921263)

Mod down anyone who can't spell Moron while trolling.

Re:moran (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921313)

Oh yea genius, what about dumb shits who can't speel copy+pasta?

You fucking morons. I'll slap you so hard, your clothes will be outta style, you sister bangin' hillbilly ... Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit.

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40920593)

What does this Bush-bashing have to do with anything? I don't see what point you're trying to make. And just to bring balance: There's flooding in the Northern midwest states right now and Obama's FEMA still hasn't done squat. (In fact he denied the governors' requests for emergency aid.) GOP or DNC; they both suck.

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (0)

inthealpine (1337881) | about 2 years ago | (#40920739)

The Katrina Bush bashing was just political BS and everyone knows it who isn't a moron. The state government was largely blamed for the lack of planning and preparation with the feds only coming off as less than helpful, but not harmful.
I wen through a nasty flood last year (as in house flooded, no power and displaced for days) and my family pulled through because we did not wait for the government to come save us.
You basically had a city full of worthless government dependent people who didn't know the first thing about being prepared and thinking ahead. Just wait for government to show up and hope your family doesn't drown.

Re:Category 5 Hurricane (1)

christianT (604736) | about 2 years ago | (#40921203)

I'm glad you said that. It was the first thing that came to my mind when I read the headline too. I'm also glad you got first post with it. This made my day.

Priorities (5, Insightful)

Roachie (2180772) | about 2 years ago | (#40920323)

A Cat 5 impacts the East Coast and we are worried that Facebook or Amazon might be down?

Re:Priorities (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40920357)

If your business relies on Amazon's services? Yes. Next question?

Re:Priorities (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920381)

1/2 mil can die.. that's fine. As long my business model doesn't temporarily fail! That's the 'merican way!

Re:Priorities (3, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40920433)

1/2 mil can die.. that's fine. As long my business model doesn't temporarily fail! That's the 'merican way!

Exaggerate much? There haven't been 500000 deaths due to hurricanes in the US even if you combine all fatalities over a hundred year period.

Re:Priorities (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#40920807)

500000 deaths due to hurricanes...

The original poster must have been using seasonal adjustments. Depending on the month, a category 5 hurricane can actually result in population growth.

Re:Priorities (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921315)

Just like the baby boom that will occur around March 2013 from the storm that blacked out the DC area for a few days. With the lack of power I could hear my neighbors better. 4 of them are now expecting. Every time one of them says "we did not try to get pregnant" I want to slap them.

Re:Priorities (1)

Roachie (2180772) | about 2 years ago | (#40920511)

Facebook?

Does Facebook offer a status of "Drowned" or "Waterlogged", "Dying from blunt force trauma"?

Re:Priorities (3, Insightful)

HAKdragon (193605) | about 2 years ago | (#40920791)

Well considering the amount of web sites and services that have "Login with Facebook" these days...
 
(Yeah yeah, the slashdot/tech knowledgeable crowd either uses per site login option or avoids those sites)

Re:Priorities (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#40920387)

Good point.

There are many data centers built to withstand F5. It's how long they can be without power, and if the redundant network paths are strenuous enough to hold up. Networks can heal pretty quickly but if most carriers are down, then bottlenecks and other failure modes occur.

But an F5 storm is crippling in many other ways that are important. Checking your Facebook may be trivial by comparison.

Re:Priorities (4, Informative)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | about 2 years ago | (#40920555)

Category 5 and F5 are very different beasts.

An F5 tornado is going to level,or at least mostly demolish, most buildings short of a concrete bunker.

A Category 5 hurricane is roughly equivalent to a low end F3 tornado - it will destroy weaker structures like prefab metal buildings and mobile homes, and perhaps de-roof and blow the windows out of more solid foundation-built structures. Still very bad news, but not on quite the same scale. Hurricanes do most the damage from flooding anyway, not the straightline winds.

Re:Priorities (2)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#40920703)

You're right. Wasn't thinking.

Re:Priorities (4, Interesting)

pillageplunder (183475) | about 2 years ago | (#40921269)

Well, Typically a Hurricane leaves a larger footprint than a Tornado, in that a larger area is affected, and also the duration of a Hurricane is much longer than that of a Tornado. Yes, an F5 tornado is much more powerful and destructive than a Cat 5 Hurricane, but given how much longer a hurricane will be over a given area, it's likely that damage will be roughly equal.
Bad news either way you slice it.

Re:Priorities (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921335)

I went through Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which was originally designated a CAT 5 but was at CAT 4 strength when it hit Homestead Florida where I was. I can assure you it did a lot more damage than to just prefab structures, a lot of south Florida was wiped off the map, including brick buildings that were supposedly rated for CAT4 hurricanes. I saw entire brick buildings swept away and only the foundation left, and the overwhelming impression left on me was that a nuke had gone off. If a CAT 5 hit the east coast and maintained enough strength by the time it hit cloud datacenters they would almost certainly be completely destroyed.

Re:Priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921183)

A data center can withstand F5 issues, but in an outage, they are diesel generator powered. After a hurricane, the roads likely would not be clear for days to weeks so the generator could get refueled. Compound this with the fact that the generator may not have a full fuel tank, due to tests or just plain lack of maintenance, it might just run dry and cause the data center to shut down.

To boot, diesel generators have to be in the outdoors, and have a lot of CFM of air running through/past it for cooling. This makes them fairly vulnerable to high winds and debris unless effort is put in to having them part of a more resilient structure.

I would say that a large storm knocking data centers would be crippling in a lot of levels:

1: A lot of people forget that storing data on the cloud may not mean the data is stored redundantly. It likely is just sitting on the ass end of a RAID 6 array on an EMC VNX, or on something "dumber" like a Backblaze storage pod. Not many places would bother with replicating data stored.

Because of this, I consider the "cloud" as one backup "media", just like a CD-R or a tape. Vital stuff, create a TC partition or partitions, put your documents on that, but don't forget to save them locally as well [1].

However, a lot of businesses who consider the "cloud" as a 100% reliable hard drive will be very hurt. There was a statistic that 50% of all businesses will fail if their core computers eat their data and backups can't be obtained. There will be a lot of companies around the US and possibly the world whose business operations would be completely halted.

[1]: I like saving a GPG signed SHA manifest with the files going to archival media just so I can find out if anything got corrupted on the media later down the road.

Re:Priorities (2)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#40921303)

The mean time to recovery is something every person and organization has to answer for themselves. If primary office facilities go down, can users get (by remote control or physical presence) to an alternate site? Disaster recovery professionals have tried to apply science to how recovery works given differing scenarios. It doesn't have to be hurricane, tornado, heavy snow, or even weather-related issues at all; everyone's production surface is different-- although there are lots of commonalities.

Where I live, there are several strongly built data centers with generators and heavy fuel tanks, multiple grid connections, and so forth. Having an area available to get to, let alone logon to, might otherwise be a problem.

Backups? People do backups? I thought it was a lost art. Yet for every fat EMC can full of blinking drives, there is a backhoe looking for a spot marked X.

Re:Priorities (1)

228e2 (934443) | about 2 years ago | (#40920965)

Yes.

Because this is slashdot, news for nerds. News relating to technology. Go to cnn for main news. Would you chide epsn for talking about the game cancellations of a hurricane? No, they report on sports news, relax.

Re:Priorities (1)

Translation Error (1176675) | about 2 years ago | (#40921103)

Well, more that possibility that people may lose important data they don't have local copies of.

Is there a particular reason that shouldn't be among our worries if a natural disaster strikes?

Re:Priorities (1)

Gerzel (240421) | about 2 years ago | (#40921139)

Aye. It is somewhat idiotic to worry about 'if' such a storm could. It is plainly obviuos that such a storm could take down a datacenter and almost certainly would if its path tracked across a few datacenters.

The real question is how would such a storm affect the network?

How many datacenters would be taken down and if they would be acceptable losses given this type of event. A single datacenter should be of little concern when it comes to the stability of the Internet as a whole, even when concerning a large region such as the East Coast. True many companies can only afford to build a single datacenter, but once they are able to afford the costs of a second the second should never be in the same region as the first to avoid large area disasters. That has been a part of basic network service design since DARPA.

Re:Priorities (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#40921145)

A Cat 5 impacts the East Coast and we are worried that Facebook or Amazon might be down?

Meh. Cat 5's are on the low side of risk for us here on the east coast of north america and it should be treated as such, there should be plans. But let's be honest, that bout of severe t-storms and high winds the blew through in the US from the derecho a bit back knocked Amazon offline. But we can see really severe winters, and I'm not talking about the snow. I'm talking about the freezing rain.

Think on the children (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#40920365)

You may or may not believe in global warming causing hurricanes, but if it could take down a good part of internet then is a cyberthreat, could be even seen as cyberterrorism. What country we should invade this time to prevent that danger?

Re:Think on the children (2)

PFactor (135319) | about 2 years ago | (#40920393)

Did you notice Iran is getting off the Internet? I think you know the answer to your question... /s

Re:Think on the children (0)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40920415)

The biggest threat to Iran *and* the Internet is Jeb Bush coming out of the GOP convention as a brokered compromise candidate.

Earth is seeking balance (2)

xzvf (924443) | about 2 years ago | (#40920493)

Global warming is caused by man building huge coal powered data centers, Earth sends hurricanes to destroy data centers, life on planet is saved.

Re:Earth is seeking balance (1)

a-zarkon! (1030790) | about 2 years ago | (#40921031)

Thank you for the sudden and entirely unwelcome steampunk-esque vision of some battered guy covered in soot shoveling coal in to a raging furnace with arcane pipes running to filthy server racks.

Re:Earth is seeking balance (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 2 years ago | (#40921215)

Reminds me of one of my first network hub installations (yes, hubs). The only place to mount a stack of hubs [cnet.com] was in the furnace room - an ancient oil-fired furnace that belched soot on every startup. To say the least the innards of those hubs were _disgusting_ in a very short while.

Risk compared to what? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40920371)

I live in Virginia. Yes, hurricanes do a decent amount of damage on a regular basis (oddly, my internet is more resilient than my power - I can hook up a generator and still get internet).

But everywhere has a risk. West coast has earthquakes. Midwest has tornadoes. Northeast has blizzards and nor'easters. Maybe some are less of a hazard, or are more mitigate-able, but nowhere is "safe". Or at least, no affordable place is "safe". There's just varying amounts of danger.

Quite a large range of safe... (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#40920509)

West coast has earthquakes. Midwest has tornadoes. Northeast has blizzards and nor'easters

There is quite a lot of geologically stable space entirely lacking in natural disasters between "West" and "Midwest". Like all of Utah and Colorado and New Mexico and Arizona (leaving out Wyoming because of the supervolcano).

Locating in Virginia probably gives them a cheaper supply of power though.

Hardening against a cat5 hurricane is probably a decent tradeoff for them.

Re:Quite a large range of safe... (1)

crow (16139) | about 2 years ago | (#40920605)

Yup, and some places are pretty stable and have cheap power, which is why, for example, The Dalles, Oregon, has become popular for datacenters. The only real risk there is if Mount Hood decides to follow Mount St. Hellens example.

If I were evaluating locations for a datacenter, I would consider Boise, Idaho. Yes, you would want to do some extra securing of the racks in case of earthquake (rarer than California, but not unheard of), but besides that, there's not much to worry about.

Re:Quite a large range of safe... (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40920697)

>>>leaving out Wyoming because of the supervolcano

If the supervolcano went off, the only states that would still be livable are the three Pacific ones. People living in Utah or Colorado or Arizona might survive the initial blow, but will die of ash inhalation a few days later. Same with everyone east of the supervolcano. ----- Even without the volcano I wouldn't say Utah Colorado Arizona are safe. Utah, Arizona often get hit with droughts. Colorado has huge snowstorms that leave people trapped in their homes.

Virginia & Carolina have cheap coal power. New York has cool summers to reduce air conditioning costs.

What a laugh, you were modded up for that? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#40921241)

If the supervolcano went off, the only states that would still be livable are the three Pacific ones.

The rest of the states can give up if they like. Colorado will be just fine thanks. 20 feet of ash? Not an issue. We'll become the new capital of the U.S. if you want to huddle in fear.

You estimate is way off though, just look at projected ash fall maps... most of the country is OK, including both coasts.

Colorado has huge snowstorms that leave people trapped in their homes.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HAH AH HO HE HAH HAH EHHAHAHAH.

Yeah for a DAY!! If that. The last snow storm we had like that (several years ago) was three feet, the day it stopped snowing we could have gone anywhere we wanted in a Jeep after shoveling out our side street (took the neighbors about four hours). A day after that we could use a normal car. Hospital personnel and other important people were driven to work by people that had trucks.

You don't understand, the thing about Colorado is it's semi-arid region. We get snow of significance (meaning you have to shovel a walk or driveway) three or four times a year. Any snow that does come is eradicated within a day or two by the incredibly dry conditions and the 300 days of sunshine per year.

Snow that STOPS you from leaving the house? Once every ten years, if that. And even then it's not stopping you if you have a jeep or other heavy truck, which loads of people have and so would data centers...

Re:Quite a large range of safe... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#40920777)

Arizona, Colorado, and Utah have wildfires.

Utah has tornadoes (even in Salt Lake City).

New Mexico has terrible flooding when hit by a Hurricane.

Arizona has had earthquakes.

Wildfires are nothing, as are the tornadoes... (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#40921125)

Arizona, Colorado, and Utah have wildfires.

Come on. Unless you build a data center out of wood in the middle of a forest that is totally irrelevant. I live in Colorado, the whole front range and the middle of the mountains (in short, the places where you would actually build data centers) are totally immune from forest fires. New Mexico is much the same way.

Arizona and Utah have literally nothing to burn.

Utah has tornadoes (even in Salt Lake City).

There are tornadoes, and then there are tornados... the truth is that Salt Lake City (and Denver) only ever see mild tornadoes that might tear off shingles from a roof or hurt a single weak structure (like a barn or shed), not the kind of town-devistating stuff you get in Kansas. Too close to the mountains means the air simply has not had enough time to build up energy.

New Mexico has terrible flooding when hit by a Hurricane.

?????? Citation REALLY needed.

Arizona has had earthquakes.

Very slight ones, it's not on a fault that is going to bring down anything.

Re:Quite a large range of safe... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920993)

North Carolina and Virginia are not at risk from a Category 5 Hurricane. A category 5 hurricane has never made landfall in North Carolina or Virginia, as a category 5 storm. The worst was a Category 2 landfall in 1960 and 2003, and only in North Carolina.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Category_5_Atlantic_hurricanes#Landfalls [wikipedia.org]

Re:Quite a large range of safe... (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40921105)

Wildfires do a lot of damage - and those *can* destroy a datacenter, not just disable one. Then there's droughts, which if severe enough can disable water-cooled datacenters.

Re:Risk compared to what? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40920513)

well, there's plenty of areas which have not been hit by "OMG HOUSES FLYING WALL OF ICE PENETRATING CEILING" catastrophes.

There's even places which had avoided even man made firestorms. Like, Sweden.

I don't think it matters that much if they're down for a day though, or two. and it's unlikely these discussed data centers would get completely wiped out.

Re:Risk compared to what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920691)

Re:Risk compared to what? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40921067)

Midwest has tornadoes.

We have a solution for that. [springfiel...ground.com]

Re:Risk compared to what? (1)

orrorri (2560145) | about 2 years ago | (#40921131)

West coast has earthquakes. Midwest has tornadoes. Northeast has blizzards and nor'easters.

I too live in VA... and we have earthquakes [usgs.gov] and tornadoes [vaemergency.gov] and hurricanes.

Probably not. (3, Insightful)

GodInHell (258915) | about 2 years ago | (#40920385)

First, these companies probably have catastrophic recovery plans in place. Amazon, in particular, is not know for just sitting around leaving its business blowing in the wind.

Second, the loss might slow down the internet, but unless the data hosted at these data centers was unique (which is unlikely) then the other data sites just pick up the slack. Again, that might be slower, but it wouldn't result in loss of data or "teh internet." That is to say, they will act like every other functional part of the internet, route around the damage and carry on.

Re:Probably not. (2)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 2 years ago | (#40920805)

It is more expensive to cross availability zones with Amazon, so many sites (foolishly) do not have geographic diversity.

You're asking if a hurricane can take down a cloud (1, Funny)

cvtan (752695) | about 2 years ago | (#40920401)

A regular cloud yes, but not an iCloud.

Re:You're asking if a hurricane can take down a cl (1)

sayno2quat (1651749) | about 2 years ago | (#40921091)

Funny. Here I thought regular clouds would be fine, seeing as they are high up in the sky and would reform on their own anyway, whereas all of our manmade iClouds are, ironically, stationed on the ground.

Total Disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920403)

Oh, no! People won't be able to update their status to show they have gone to the toilet!

Re:Total Disaster (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40920617)

Behold THE HORROR:

http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_90_the-world-tomorrow-if-internet-disappeared-today/?view=article [cracked.com]

(allow cracked.com and crackedcdn.com, hit "article view")

Re:Total Disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920963)

Thanks, good laugh.

No problems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920405)

it's the cloud right - if you've built your application correctly you're already load balancing across multiple data centers operated by multiple cloud providers and can endure a nuclear attack with little more than a blip of increased latency before the application keeps on chugging, right?

riiiiiiiiiight.

(posted as AC as I don't have a /. account and post maybe once every 4 years)

Re:No problems. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920641)

Welcome back AC, but you post much more often than once every 4 years!

Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (2)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#40920421)

I've never heard of a major cloud storage facility that would keep all their servers in one location. They usually have all their data backed up to remote locations, usually far from their main site. We are taking about Amazon, and Google here, not Black Berry RIM. I'm sure their data is safe.

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 2 years ago | (#40920587)

On such optimism are quotas met.

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (3, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 2 years ago | (#40920613)

This is actually one of the major risks with "cloud". When you run your own data centers, you can touch the hardware, talk to the people, and check behind them to make sure things are actually being done right. In the worst case with cloud, you simply trust that "their data is safe", when in fact it might not be at all. In the less bad case, you get a nice contract with SLAs that specify exactly what data being safe means, and what recourse you have if they blow it. This is still not great, because if the past 5 years have taught you nothing else, they should have taught you that YES companies will make bets that end their business if they bet wrong.

I wouldn't say don't use the so-called cloud providers. Just don't naively believe they're doing everything right just because they haven't had a catastrophic failure or screwed up YOUR data yet.

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40920825)

This is actually one of the major risks with "cloud". When you run your own data centers, you can touch the hardware, talk to the people, and check behind them to make sure things are actually being done right. In the worst case with cloud, you simply trust that "their data is safe", when in fact it might not be at all. In the less bad case, you get a nice contract with SLAs that specify exactly what data being safe means, and what recourse you have if they blow it. This is still not great, because if the past 5 years have taught you nothing else, they should have taught you that YES companies will make bets that end their business if they bet wrong.

I wouldn't say don't use the so-called cloud providers. Just don't naively believe they're doing everything right just because they haven't had a catastrophic failure or screwed up YOUR data yet.

Few customers have the knowledge and experience to touch the hardware and see if it's "done right". If they had that much expertise in-house, they'd probably just set it up themselves.

But for the vast majority of customers that just want someplace to host a few servers, nearly any cloud provider is going to be better than doing it themselves. Category 5 hurricanes are rare, local power failures and ISP outages are much more common and that's what's going to take down most do-it-yourself small-time hosters that run a couple servers in their wiring closet on a UPS, single source ISP connection and maybe a backup generator if they are lucky (but it's not regularly tested or maintained).

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 2 years ago | (#40921181)

Few customers have the knowledge and experience to touch the hardware and see if it's "done right". If they had that much expertise in-house, they'd probably just set it up themselves.

Okay, I don't have any data to back this up, do you? I know that in our case, our customers see the cloud buzzword, and so marketing puts it into the proposals, and since it's normally less expensive to outsource this, we end up going that route. It has nothing to do with our own lack of expertise, just that we're too cheap to pay for our own. Think of it like this...I can mow my own lawn, but I choose to pay the kid down the street because my time is more valuable than what it costs to pay him.

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920663)

Yes, but it's clouds all the way down.

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40920787)

I've never heard of a major cloud storage facility that would keep all their servers in one location. They usually have all their data backed up to remote locations, usually far from their main site. We are taking about Amazon, and Google here, not Black Berry RIM. I'm sure their data is safe.

When the cloud storage provider is quite clear about what level of redundancy they provide, you probably shouldn't assume anything -- read what they are providing.

Amazon is quite clear about the distinction between availability zones and regions, and if you're going to host your critical app somewhere, you should probably understand what you're paying for.

I'm sure there are cloud providers that will give you the level of redundancy you're seeking, but probably not at the same price that Amazon charges.

Re:Cloud is supposed to have REDUNDANCY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921041)

Lots of people had that same impression...until a 30 minute power outage at the Amazon data center in Sterling, Virginia during the 'derecho' storm in June took down Netflix, Instagram, Pinterest, and who knows how many other services for about six hours. The only reason it wasn't bigger news was because the outage was overnight, and things were mostly restored by the following morning.

Why didn't those services fail-over seamlessly to other Amazon cloud data centers? Excellent question. Hopefully those companies have been banging on Amazon's door asking them the same thing. But the fact is that a single, relatively brief power outage at a single data center had a massive, hours-long impact. And the affected businesses thought they were using a reliable, redundant cloud service from a big, trustworthy name (one of the ones you mention!).

Backup procedures (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920425)

Hurricanes don't really sneak up on people. Anyone with anything near the coastline will know about 5 days in advance whether or not to call their backup procedures.

You get what you pay for (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40920431)

Anyone that hosts their entire web presence at Amazon Virginia (especially after the other outages they've had), or really, in any single Amazon region is getting what they pay for and what they deserve if there's a regional disaster.

It's not hard or expensive to have a cold- or warm- spare site in a different region ready to take over (even if it's a manual cutover), especially since Amazon's new(ish) US-West region in Oregon is the same price as US-East.

I like that Amazon lets me pay for the level of redundancy I need - a small bump for multiple availability zone within a single region redundancy, with a larger bump for multiple region redundancy. Not everything I do needs to ride out an East Coast hurricane, but for those things that do, it's really not hard to have a backup site in a different region.

Good Grief (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920469)

"Could a Category 5 Hurricane Take Down East Coast Data Centers?"

What a stupid fucking question. What do you employ, 3rd graders?

Unbelievable.

Re:Good Grief (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40920681)

The only point of this story was to attempt to get you to click the link to Slash BI that is at the end.

Don't care... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920473)

I live on the east coast in an area that sees tropical storm activity every year. I can safely say that a cat 5 hurricane hits data centers will be the last of my concerns since I would have no home or job left.

Um yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920499)

" It's possible that Amazon's cloud alone holds an entire 1% of the Internet.' Could a category 5 Hurricane become a problem for these cloud data centers and take down parts the Internet?"

Yes. Which is why you need redundancy. Plan to fail.

Personally, I would only setup edge servers in areas that have high risk of damage (basically anything south of Montreal in the Eastern time zone) On the West coast, because of the earthquake risk, is still a much lower potential than severe weather. It seems absolutely insane to have any critical data in Florida.

Where should you put your data?

Iceland. Kelowna BC, Regina Winnipeg. All geographically stable with cheap energy.

Edge servers should be in every capital city and major population base, except those in tornado alley. It's important to state that only edge servers should be in potentially dangerous areas, since you don't want to risk data loss, but you can risk losing the hardware.

But storing data in the eastern Timezone is more hazardous than the western time zone. Unfortunately the East coast is more central to Canada and the US's capital cities, and distance to Europe.

It already happened June 29, 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920531)

The dericho on June 29 caused a power outage that took down a data center in Virginia. That wasn't even a hurricane.

Solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920539)

Dont put your stuff in the cloud... Problem Solved!

Re:Solution. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40920647)

But it's soooo trendy! :-(

A few bits of information (5, Informative)

VoiceOfSanity (716713) | about 2 years ago | (#40920547)

First off, a Category 5 hurricane is highly unlikely striking that region of the country. Historically, there have been only three confirmed Category 5 landfalls, two of them in Florida and one in Mississippi (the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in Florida, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.) There has been Category 4 storms that have struck the Cape Hatteras area, and South Carolina did have Hurricane Hugo in 1989. But the odds of a Category 5 hitting that specific region of the US is extremely low.

Additionally, these data centers are not located along the coastline, but a significant distance inland. Facebook's is west of Charlotte, while Amazon's located west of Washington DC. Of the list, the Amazon one that could... and I mean could be impacted by a hurricane, but there really hasn't been a good strike in the Chesapeake Bay area in a while. They were taken down by the derechos that rolled through last month, and a derecho could happen pretty much anywhere west of the Rockies.

So while the chances of a hurricane taking down one of the datacenters is low, it could happen. It's one reason you don't see data centers built anywhere within 150 miles of the Gulf Coast or in Florida as a whole, the entire region is a target zone for Mother Nature. (Disclaimer: I've lived along the Gulf Coast now for over 30+ years and have been through a Category 5, two Category 4 and a host of other hurricanes over my time.)

Re:A few bits of information (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920879)

I'm sure it's been mentioned, but Terremark's Miami datacenter is about 3 blocks from the port (inland from Government Cut and the American Airlines Arena where the Heat play.) They show you DNS root servers when taking the tour. If I have to guess it's also where the major tubes from Latin America enter the country.

Re:A few bits of information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920913)

Your reasoning seems much like what led to the Challenger disaster: believing that because a bad thing has not yet happened, that means that the odds of bad things happening are reduced. I'm not saying you're wrong. But the projections are for bigger weather events in the coming years, so I'm not sure that historical data can be projected entirely successfully.

Re:A few bits of information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921077)

Stennis Space Center in Mississippi is the DHS primary datacenter.

Re:A few bits of information (2)

mjr167 (2477430) | about 2 years ago | (#40921293)

I think Katrina demonstrated that a properly aimed cat 3 can do tons of damage. But, we might as well ask the question "Are we prepared for a tanker truck full of hydrogen to crash into Amazon's datacenter?"

Highlights the importance of risk management (1)

PFactor (135319) | about 2 years ago | (#40920581)

Here we have a risk that requires mitigation. If you owned the facilities in question you would know your disaster preparedness and would know how much effort you are willing and able to put into enhancing it.

But since you don't own these facilities you have to trust the companies that do own them to do what you would do (or better). The only real controls you have are in negotiating the initial contract (regarding SLAs, especially) and in designing your system to withstand a failure of one company to protect their facility. That means you have to either buy resources on both coasts from one company or buy resources from multiple companies whose facilities are geodispersed and make sure your code/platform understands and deals with losing one or more of them.

The leggy gal on the sales team won't tell you any of this. I think most people don't find out about it until the disaster actually happens. It's pretty much like any other piece of your tech stack: the vendors will whitewash the risks and your job is to see through that and manage it.

I submit this isn't a risk caused by the use of "the cloud" (egad, do I hate that term!) so much as a risk that's part of any IT project and you deal with it the same way.

So to answer the original question, maybe a CAT 5 hurricane can take those facilities down but the question you should be asking is, "Have we completely understood the risk to the business and have we taken appropriate steps to protect it?".

After living through a cat5 I can say no. (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about 2 years ago | (#40920673)

After seeing Andrew in 1992, I can say no, your data centers are just waiting to be ripped out of the ground.

Who Needs a Hurricane (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920693)

Dude, we lost a data center in 2002 to a SuperSoaker. One of the admins offered to do a tour for "Bring Your Terror of a Child to Work Day" and failed to check SuperSoaker's at the door.

I've never been more proud of my son.

Seriously though, yes, a hurricane could easily knock out east coast data centers. https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=hurricane+isabel+baltimore [google.com]

No worries.. (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | about 2 years ago | (#40920705)

..It'll get moderated down to -1 if it goes anywhere near Virginia.

Well, this has ALREADY happened to AWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920749)

... in their Ashburn DC. The freak thunderstorms that hit the East Coast a few weeks ago knocked the Ashburn DC off-line completely, killed a bunch of major websites, including Netflix, who had strutted loudly how its multi-AZ redundancy strategy prevented them from being subject to any one AZ dying. They were wrong, as were many other sites.

Read Don MacAskill's blog (CEO of SmugMug, heavy consumer of AWS services: http://don.blogs.smugmug.com/). He addresses AWS outages a number of times and has intelligent and worthwhile insights into how to design your apps for failure and fail-over.

One of the interesting things about Amazon's most recent big outage is that providers in the SAME building did not have an outage - none at all (no power going out, no Internet going down, nada). Either Amazon has done things on the major cheap - possibly - or their power design is very poor.

Geography (1)

CByrd17 (987455) | about 2 years ago | (#40920773)

I'm not sure if there is a firm grasp on the geography of these states. Virginia and NC are medium sized states, that yes, touch the ocean where a large Cat 5 hurricane might launch itself upon their beaches. It's never ever happened before, but hey it might. Now, I'm willing to bet that these large data centers are NOT on the beaches of these states, but perhaps just a wee bit farther inland. Perhaps even as far as the mountainous areas that run through the western portion of these. I don't know. I didn't look these things up, but if so a hurricane would die a fairly quick death as it moved inland in either area. Now this does not include the possibility of a hurricane coming up the Chesapeake bay and into Baltimore or Washington DC. However if that happened, and DC was flattened on the way to hitting the Amazon data center in Northern Virginia, I think we'd have a few other problems than lost data.

Re:Geography (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920871)

However if that happened, and DC was flattened on the way to hitting the Amazon data center in Northern Virginia, I think we'd have a few other problems than lost data.

Maybe. On the other hand, if DC was flattened I think that would solve more problems than it created.

Because the West Coast has no disasters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920779)

Many California data centers are within range of major fault lines.

Re:Because the West Coast has no disasters (1)

damien_kane (519267) | about 2 years ago | (#40921225)

Many California data centers are within range of major fault lines.

It's ok though; Few of them have "May Cause Cancer" signs posted, so they must be safe.
[Cancer causes death; Datacenters don't cause cancer; Datacenters are safe from death; Earthquakes cause death, but people are safe from death in Datacenters, so they are safe from Earthquakes]

Move along, people...

They already have (4, Informative)

John Jorsett (171560) | about 2 years ago | (#40920815)

A few years back I belatedly discovered (the hard way) that my web hoster had located its servers in Hurricane Alley. My site was down for over a week as they trucked their server farm to a new location because the local utilities weren't going to be back until God knew when. I've since been paying attention to where things are located, physically, and anything that might be threatening to that area.

Internet != Web (1)

Annirak (181684) | about 2 years ago | (#40920829)

The internet will be largely unaffected: the amorphous network of routers which makes up the internet is specifically designed to route around damage like this. The internet will be fine. The web, on the other hand, could suffer a large loss of access to content.

Im sure this is flame bait but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40920847)

Highly independant small, redundant data hives with redundant power sourced seperately from the grid (aka wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric). Let's face the catastrophies which annihalated the dinosaurs and not the insects with the same solutions mother nature has proven time and time again can succeed.

Re:Im sure this is flame bait but... (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40920881)

There's no need to fear! Captain Pedant is here!

Hello...? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#40920985)

We discussed this a few weeks ago, when the AWS US-east availability zone puked (of it's own accord, no hurricane's required). If you had stuff that lived only there (a single EC2 instance and no ELB, for example), you were screwed. This does not change the fact that "the cloud" (defined as a particular set of services that are readily available from AWS, and probably others) can survive the loss of this or that location just fine. Note that just having the word "cloud" in the name of this or that service does not automatically imbue that service with that level of availability. Read the previous sentence again. And again. Yes, I'm beating the "no magic in the cloud" drum now too, because apparently too many of us don't get it. Yes, you can buy highly available stuff from AWS and others, but a single EC2 instance ain't it.

No (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 2 years ago | (#40921027)

Any cloud services should be geographically redundant such that any disaster anywhere in the country would not affect 'cloud' based services.

Biggest issue is support infrastructure (2)

gavving (1689168) | about 2 years ago | (#40921045)

The biggest issue in a windstorm event is (tornado or hurricane), is likely going to be damage to the support infrastructure, and possibly generator fuel. For example the external heat exchangers mounted outside the building would likely be blown away or damaged, thus effecting the datacenter's ability to keep cool. Also if the datacenter has an external fuel tank or external generator those could be damaged and made inoperable.

In a very large hurricane scenario I'd think that fuel deliveries might be problematic in the first 24-72hrs after the event. Probably due to inability to safely get the fuel trucks into the facility due to downed lines/trees/bridges.

Can't type. (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | about 2 years ago | (#40921193)

Too excited about Facebook being taken out by a hurricane.

Could it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40921233)

Yes.

Replication is key (2)

Local ID10T (790134) | about 2 years ago | (#40921245)

I have my business data hosted primary in Somoma/Napa CA (wine country), a secondary in Monterrey CA (wine & beach), another on the big island of Hawaii (pacific island), and I am really thinking of adding a server in southern Louisiana -probably New Orleans. It is a bit rough having to take a long weekend and go check that the colo is maintaining infrastructure as per our agreement, but as long as I keep checking on one every couple months it is liveable...

Seriously though, keep your data in multiple locations, keep multiple backups, and don't worry too much about any one going offline -just as long as they don't all go offline at once.

Why category 5? (2)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#40921265)

This seems a silly topic. We've recently seen what a bad thunderstorm [wired.com] can do. Of course a Cat 5 is a risk, don't ask stupid questions.

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