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Blackout Worse For Internet Than Previously Thought?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the tragic-leech-loss dept.

The Internet 149

An anonymous reader writes "Renesys (the people who previously brought you cool animated graphs of the US/Canada power outage has a new report out. It challenges the widely held belief that the Internet was largely unaffected by the power outage. Lots of important networks lost connectivity, including banks, hospitals, government organizations and investment funds. There's a cool appendix on the huge Italian power outage in September as well. They conclude that the Internet is not ready to be critical infrastructure."

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My love, the ring I carry is drenched in cum (-1)

(TK)Dessimat0r (668222) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551129)

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I___________,.-------.,____________I Slashdot
N______,;~'_____________'~;,_______N fucking
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Now dead, his rotting fingers are able to raise
an army of skeletons from the grave.

Trollkore
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I would just like to take a moment to say: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551795)

The Who SUCK!

And Roger Daltrey is a dirty paedophile!!!

Obvious? (5, Insightful)

Huogo (544272) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551137)

It has always seemed to me that the internet isn't all that de-centralized, but a few major companies ran most of the backbones. Since it isn't a huge ad-hoc network, most of the data for an area probably goes out through no more than 5 connections. Especially in rual areas, I wouldn't doubt that at least one routing station in each of those chains doesn't have good long term backup facilities.

Re:Obvious? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551381)

Well, duh. (Yes I did read the article) If 1/3 of the country goes out, we are sure as hell going to loose *some* connectivity.

Its pretty cool though that it can be observed in terms of routing activity.

Yes, ideally everyone would have backup power (and enough of it). If power outages were common, it might be a good selling point for ISPs, but they aren't so not many people want to may more $ per month just to have battery backup. (Especially residential customers who won't have it at home anyway).

I don't like big government either, but an FTC law (or whatever) mandating backup power for ISPs/backbones of sufficient size or type of service (business vs residenial) might be what's needed.

If phone companies have such a requirement, then the internet probably should to.

(Unfortunately, most phones are powered from the phone line, but I can't say the same about my cable modem...)

OTOH, did many businesses care to have backup power for sufficient length? Just because the some routers went out, it might not have mattered if their end users were already without power.

A robust internet is a great thing, but not near as great as a robust internet with robust users.

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551530)

Well, duh. (Yes I did read the article) If 1/3 of the country goes out, we are sure as hell going to loose *some* connectivity.

I stopped reading here as you are obviously an idiot.

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551707)

(Unfortunately, most phones are powered from the phone line, but I can't say the same about my cable modem...)

OTOH, did many businesses care to have backup power for sufficient length? Just because the some routers went out, it might not have mattered if their end users were already without power.

Example:
Hey there's a fire in the back room! Quick, call the fire department on the IP phone! Uhhh...

Re:Obvious? (4, Interesting)

tmu (107089) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551747)

The ability to observe the outage (sharply) through routing activity is definitely the part that we thought was coolest.

People are saying two different things here: 1) well, duh, if power is out lots of people can't connect to the web; 2) if the core of the internet routes around that who cares. These are both interesting points. Here are some thoughts:

1) We agree. That's what I though. But read the keynote press releases. Or just google on 'blackout Internet' and you'll find glowing stories about how 'the Internet' didn't even blip under the blackout. We prove pretty conclusively that this is incorrect.

2) The core of the Internet did, indeed, route around the outage. This is good. What is less good is that thousands of networks within the outage area lost connectivity, either due to lost power themselves, or upstreams that lost power (or telcos who lost battery backup on csu/dsu units, or whatever). These are *not* DSL customers (or that grade, anyway). All of these are BGP-speaking networks with their own Autonomous Systems and their own prefixes.

The fact that so many networks went down is significant, given that many organizations are coming to rely on the Internet as a critical communications infrastructure.

Re:Obvious? (2, Funny)

nachosternum (691462) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551902)

well to think that this did not affect many or that the internet didn't even blip would be a dumb statement to make. First of all, with the news of power outage, many geeks ran to their computers to see if they were still able to "Aim" their buddy! or the online gammers who, regardless of the candles surrounding they could still not belive that this could be happening.

There were many-a-young-kid without the ability to hit the Maxum web site. So to say that there weren't any affects, it's just purely not right!

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7552106)

Yes some smaller AS's lost connectivity how many were schools with no backup generators? I think the good question is how many dual homed BGP peered sites went down? this would mean something at there end failed including the telco (doubtfull battery backups there are commonplace) vs how many little single attached why would you ever use them as an ISP went offline.

NEWS FLASH! (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552164)

Servers stop operating when no power is getting to them! If you are a dial-up customer to an ISP who has no power, you might have trouble connecting! More on this crisis as it develops.

In other news, Generalissimo Franco is still dead.

Re:Obvious? (1)

mikem170 (698970) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552573)

I wonder what percentage of those BGP routes are offline at any other given time? I'll bet a lot of those /24 are BGP routes are advertised from end points on the internet that do not have backup paths at this time.

I'm getting two private BGP blocks from two carriers and I have to implement my internal routing properly or it won't work right. I am not an ISP and the internet at large doesn't miss me when I'm gone.

The worst of it is that apparently more people have BGP routes on the net then have redundancy!

Re:Obvious? (1)

nocomment (239368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551889)

I don't like big government either, but an FTC law (or whatever) mandating backup power for ISPs/backbones of sufficient size or type of service (business vs residenial) might be what's needed.

I agree and disagree. I wouldn't make it a required thing that ISP's _HAD_ to do to. I might come up with a scheme like they did with the emergency network dealy-bob. TV and radio stations, don't have to broadcast at any specific wattage or have any backup at all. If they want to be a part of the emergency network (I forget the exact terminaology someone help me out here), then they have to have huge generators, be able to run theoretically indefinatelly (as long as there is a supply line of fuel) without any power grid at all. They could do something like that with the Internet. Want to be a part of the governments emergency network infrastructure? Then have batteries that will run till the generator kicks in. This would require that the goernment is of course able to use your network in the even of an emergency, but let's be honest. If something bad enough happened where the government needed to take over your ISP, it's probably a big enough deal where they would have just done it anyway.

How about most sites do not have large UPSs ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551147)

or generators. It takes large battery capacity to sustain long uptimes when htere is a facilities power outage.

Of course, Internet Needs Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551160)

Its a no brainer. Do the routers run on solar, wind, tidal power?

In Russia, Power needs Internet.

WhatMeWorry?

That's fine (5, Insightful)

dschl (57168) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551165)

They conclude that the Internet is not ready to be critical infrastructure.
Apparently, neither is the electrical network. Back to candles we go.

Re:That's fine (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551222)

dschl wins, this discussion is over.

Re:That's fine (2, Interesting)

kwerle (39371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551649)

Nor most modern phones - which need electrical. Nor traffic lights. Lucky I don't depend on that kinda stuff being up all the time!

Re:That's fine (2)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552084)

Though since telephone exchanges have battery backup then during a blackout the phones still work.

But PCs don't.

And invert it.. (1)

xant (99438) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552201)

I read about the outage first on *slashdot*. You can't tell me the "Internet" was knocked out. It's "parts of the Internet that did not have power" that were knocked out. I mean come on, do they expect the public sewage system to work when there's no water?

Re:And invert it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7552340)

sheesh no need to bring aol's content feed into the arguement

Ready or not, here we come. (4, Insightful)

Dav3K (618318) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551182)

Ready or not, the internet is increasingly being used for critical infrastructure. At best, failures like the power outage should motivate governments and industry to bolster the internet up to where it needs to be for reliability standards.

Re:Ready or not, here we come. (4, Informative)

RedHat Rocky (94208) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551464)

Industry is more than willing to "bolster the internet up to where it needs to be for reliability standards", it's called Spend the Money. You want 5 9's connectivity, you gotta pay. The government get involved? I thought you were looking for MORE reliable? :)

The proper conclusion from the data would be that many businesses in the blackout area, despite handling large sums of money daily, did not have sufficient redundant power or connectivity.

Whether anyone could have anticipate such a large scale blackout (and prepare accordingly) is another topic.

Re:Ready or not, here we come. (2, Insightful)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551553)

The internet is not the only thing being used as critical infrastructure. Look at cell phones. People use them everyday, and they are becoming the norm. It is even becoming the standard with number portability moving land lines to cell phones and not vice-versa. But are they reliable. One power outage and they fail, one emergency and the cell towers get overwhelmed. Oh well just another piece of technology we are addicted to that could easily fail us.

Infrastructure (5, Funny)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551184)

They conclude that the Internet is not ready to be critical infrastructure.


But seemingly no less so than the power grid.

-Peter

Re:Infrastructure (3, Interesting)

addaon (41825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551825)

While I know that was meant as a joke, it's important to point out that the power grid /isn't/ used for critical infrastructure. No hospital, or air traffic control station, or powerplant (oh, the irony) would be caught dead without a backup power system.

Re:Infrastructure (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7552212)

But.. the point of this article is that the Internet does not have ::drumroll:: BACKUP POWER.

And the power system is? (4, Insightful)

David Frankenstein (21337) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551192)

Exactly how does one system's dependance on a critical infrastructure (the power grid) and it's failure when that infrastructure fails imply that it's not ready?

WAY TOO MUCH LOGIC IN PARENT!! MOD -1 WTF (-1)

Greased_Yoda (724757) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551217)

plaese shove me shove me oh so good.

Re:And the power system is? (4, Insightful)

shotfeel (235240) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551296)

That was my question. The core of the conclusions seems to be,

"We find that Internet connectivity in the blacked-out region was far more seriously affected than has been publicly revealed."

Pointing out that areas without power didn't have internet connectivity seems rather redundant to me. The big question is how did it affect people outside that area? The fact that the rest of the world just plugged right along seems contrary to the conclusion they seem to want to draw.

Re:And the power system is? (5, Interesting)

Rick.C (626083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551836)

Pointing out that areas without power didn't have internet connectivity seems rather redundant to me.

For home users and small businesses, you are quite right. What about large businesses that invested in generators so they could stay online 24/7? They were prepared to remain online to conduct their business. They depended on the Internet and it failed them.

I work for a large bank. We were not hit by the power outage, but we were scrambling to find routes around the areas that were.

Re:And the power system is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7552199)

If they were not connected to an ISP that took equally drastic steps to stay up 24/7 though a power outage, then no, they were not prepared to remain on line.

Re:And the power system is? (4, Interesting)

orangesquid (79734) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552046)

I think the implied problem was the connectivity that was provided by ISPs and backbone segments running off the affected sections of the power grid.

If the Internet were more redundant and ad-hoc (less backbone-centric), it would recover from problems better. That's how it was originally envisioned; unfortunately, the commercialization of NSFNet has largely destroyed this approach, for better or worse.

We have a more organized network, but it's very dependent on critical points because of it's multiplexing organization strategy, so when that fails...

Re:And the power system is? (3, Informative)

pigscanfly.ca (664381) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552020)

To a certain extent you may be correct .
But you have to look at it in a slightly different light .
If the power goes out hospitals , telephone networks , and other "essential" services tend to have backup generators and backup batteries.
Now for the internet to be ready to reach the legendary uptime of POTS it will have to improve .
This means that we should not be routing information on which if it doesnt get there people die exclusively over the internet .
The so called essential services must all be willing to accept that one or more of the essential services will fail (hence the amazing backup batteries , generators etc. found at hospitals and telphone companies) .

Critical Infrastructure? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551214)

Bah, I could have told you that. I work for an ISP that serves 15 states. I get calls from people who put 100% of their business into a DSL line - with no backup to other carriers or mediums. When a hardware failure or trunk line failure occures - they go postal.

Sorry, but uptime is not 100% never was, never will be - plan for it, or deal with it when your connection goes down.

Even though we have multiple connections to the backbone - local trunks can go down. Aka backhoe attacks on burried fiber, or dove hunters blasting pole run fiber (don't laugh - it happened last week). If you don't have a backup DSL,ISDN, or heck even dialup connection for your business - then stfu and wait while we repair.

And don't even get me started on residential accounts that call in 'I use this for work I need it up now - send someone out today.' And it's Sunday evening... no - you didn't pay for a business account, so you get residential service levels which include 24-72 hour turn around on repairs.

Re:Critical Infrastructure? (3, Interesting)

tmu (107089) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551542)

This is certainly a topical comment, but it misses the point a little (I think).

A large number of organizations that were multi-homed, using BGP to announce routes out multiple upstream providers lost connectivity. This speaks to the situation that people who have spent a bunch of money on network infrastructure may not have spent enough on power (or may not have carefully evaluated their upstream providers).

One of the organizations located in the study had nine (9!) upstream providers and still went out. This is not a case of people on the far end of a DSL link; this is the case of people not being able to put together reliable network connectivity, even in the face of multi-homing.

Re:Critical Infrastructure? (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552612)

Interesting point about the cable TV system (and therefore cable modems) in my hometown. When they were installing the new system they installed UPS-like backup power supplies throughout the city to keep the cable system going for 60 minutes after commercial power fails. So, I basically can hang on the Internet for about the time my UPS has life on my computer in a blackout... the cable company arrived at the 60 minute figure because they believe that's as long as people will ever be able to power their own equipment, after which point there's no need for a cable network anyway.

Re:Critical Infrastructure? (1)

mikem170 (698970) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552725)

I like the DSL guys post! If you are willing to pay for redundancy you can have it: - Get two BGP AS numbers (public and/or private) - Order T1s or better from two providers who have their own backbones and are located in telco central offices (AT&T, WCOM, Quest, Sprint, a baby bell, etc - not your local cable modem company. - Order another pair of T1s at a facility on the other side of the country or world. - Order a non-IP connection between your two facilities (point to point, or frame - at least minimal). - Set up your two BGP systems as two DMZ networks. Spread your applications across the two. Make sure your DNS is just as solid. Total cost starts at $5000-$10000 per month for a handful of T1s. Cost does not include routers or firewalls, or servers. And those all have to be redundant, also. (although FreeBSD and a some switches will get you started, figure $10000-$15000 minimum to get started). Of course you already have facilities, or throw on more $100s per month. Less than the above and I'd feel still vulnerable to a provider or geographic problem. It depends what somebody considers their downtime worth.

Re:Critical Infrastructure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551853)

Then you're company better give me a refund, automatically, for the time that your service is down.

typical "isp" response--"Deal with it" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551861)

Without you telling us, I could tell that you were from an ISP, by your telling "deal with it" response. Truly, if your lines went down with the major backbone, your Boss would be saying "I use this for work, and I need it up now!" to UUNET, MCI, or whoever you connect through. Many businesses use the internet for mission critical processes (i'd say an ISP fits this bill), and it is important that recovery is quick and efficient.

What ISP do you work for? Obviously with your attitude, all businesses should go somewhere else for good customer service.

Re:Critical Infrastructure? (1)

gregmac (629064) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552017)

Sorry, but uptime is not 100% never was, never will be - plan for it, or deal with it when your connection goes down.

The problem with this is most SME's can't afford to spend the money on a service merely as a 'backup', espessially if they don't understand exactly how much they rely on it (and I'd guess there's a lot of PHB's that don't).

That said, I work at a small company, and we do have a router that automatically fails-over to a modem (which is 16.8k or something - the only external I had sitting around.. again, not worth paying for a faster one since we so rarely need to use it) running on our fax line. Of course, our actual servers are offsite, in a co-lo with redundant pipes. And although that is still subject to downtimes, it's rare. The last downtime was a couple hours after the power clicked off ;)

And don't even get me started on residential accounts that call in 'I use this for work I need it up now - send someone out today.' And it's Sunday evening... no - you didn't pay for a business account, so you get residential service levels which include 24-72 hour turn around on repairs.

I work in the water treatment industry (installing pumps in wells, treatment systems, etc for residential/commercial/industrial clients - we also do SCADA systems, which is where I fit in). We get this same thing. I usually stay at the office a bit later than everyone else (most people leave around 5, I go home anytime between 6 and 9) - much easier to get programming done when people aren't bugging me. Anyway, I'll take phone calls till around 6. We get a lot of irate customers that call up at 5:45 friday evening "I've got no water.. Can you get a crew here now?" and get angry when I tell them there's nothing we can do until Monday.

I mean, I sympathize.. no water would be a pain. But at the same time, most residential systems are $2-3k to install, then a few hundred dollars a year to maintain. Do you think they are going to be happy getting a bill paying our crew (if we can even get people together) overtime? And what happens when something breaks that we don't keep in stock? If our suppliers have it, maybe we can have it Monday.. if not, it's at least Tuesday.

Of course, for our bigger clients, things are different. They can afford it, and we make enough money from them that it's worth it to us to do it.

Anyway, that got really OT, but I felt the need to vent ;) But it's not a problem that's specific to ISPs .. I'd imagine any service-oriented business would be in the same boat.

Re:Critical Infrastructure? (2, Insightful)

egburr (141740) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552430)

Speaking as someone who has recently been involuntarily annexed and is being *forced* and billed to have city water and sewer installed, I'd be damned pissed off if my water suddenly quit working and it would be 2-3 days before you would even send someone over.

Currently, if I lose power, I fire up my generator; I still have water. If the water pump has problems, I can usually get someone over that day (or the next at the latest) to fix it or replace it. With the city water system, I do not get that option. I don't even get a choice of who to call.

Blackout Worse than Previously Thought? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551225)

You mean to say that www page is worse than
we all thought? I never thought it was possible.


For Karma-Whoring purposes, I wish to not name the
site. Besides, if you don't know the page, you have
nothing to complain about.

critical infrastructure (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551234)

If power *is* a critical infrastructure, and lack of power is what caused these problems, how can that support a conclusion that the Internet is not ready to be considered critical?

I'm not saying there isn't other evidence that would support such a conclusion, but the real failure here was the power infrastructure, upon which the net relied "critically" in the first place...

Re:critical infrastructure (1)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551907)

One critical system can not be held up by another. If there is no water coming out of my faucet, I can still watch TV.

For this reason, I still have a old phone that is not cordless. That way if the power goes out, and the phones don't, I can still have some sort of connectivity.

Because Inet is comm, not juice - compare w/Tellco (3, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552059)

If power *is* a critical infrastructure, and lack of power is what caused these problems, how can that support a conclusion that the Internet is not ready to be considered critical?

Because the internet is communication, not power. So the correct comparison is the telephone company, not the power company.

Power can be backed up locally. Communication can not. So power only needs to be available MOST of the time, with backups on any critical services, to achieve its "critical infrastructure" level of reliability. Communications, on the other hand, requires an infrastructure with multiple links, routing around failures, and local power backup at the active nodes to achieve its own "critical infrastructure" service levels.

The telephone company HAS this level of backup power built in. Switching centers, for instance, run their equipment directly from TWO banks of 48v batteries suitable for days of operation, and run battery chargers continuously when there's power available. Repeaters on long copper trunks are powered from the endpoints - and can run with only one endpoint hot. Telephone instruments are powered from the central office switch via the copper wire. Active customer premesis equipment has battery backup for critical features or is designed to connect at least one POTS phone directly to a copper pair to the switch in case of blackout, and so on. SONET nodes are wired as rings rather than trees, so you have to cut TWO fibers in different places to isolate them. Other trunks are redundant and switch over automatically in case of outage. I could go on. About the only place a single cable cut can cut you off is the line to your house - and if you pay (a lot!) extra (as some businesses do) you can get another run in by a different path, so no single backhoe or downed pole can isolate you.

The Internet was ORIGINALLY designed with this kind of redundancy built in. Individual links were via the tellco's infrastructure, with its power-failure resistance. Routing was automatic, and would find a route between any two nodes if one still existed. (It WAS designed by people who were at least THINKING about surviving a nuclear attack, after all.)

But with the "inflation" of the commercial internet this robustness was lost. The explosion of active IP addresses made routing tables impossibly large, while most sites were connected via a local ISP rather than ad-hoc connection to two (or more) internet neighbors.

So the internet split into a "backbone" with SOME of the old routing redundancy, interconnecting ISPs, who in turn give you a default route JUST to their own servers. If your ISP fails you're cut off, and if the backbone connections to your ISP fail, ditto (even if you in principle COULD reach the rest of the net through somebody with a two-ISP feed.)

The ISP buisness has FIERCE price competition, and one BIG way to cut costs is to reduce redundant routing internally and neglect backup power.

At the backbone level the long-haul networks carrying the data had an even FIERCER price war, due to the excessive long-haul buildout of the internet bubble. Perhaps some of the upstarts powered their switches and repeaters with local power (on the assumption that the could slough any site that had a local power failure and that they'd have a path with all equipment powered between any two customers still live). A major blackout would violate that assumption, cutting off not just the dead area but others who could only reach the rest of the net by routing through it.

How about your DSL or cable IP feed? Did your cable company include battery backup power in the repeaters, pole-mounted routers, and fiber/cable bridges? Is you settop box battery backed up? How about your DSL modem? If you're corporate, are all your routers, your VoIP bridge, and any desktops running a softphone on the UPS? Do your SIP phones run if the power fails? (Home users ditto for your PC.)

Until all these are fixed the internet is NOT running at "critical infrastructure" reliability levels. So you'll want to think VERY CAREFULLY before disconnecting your POTS line and depending on Internet-VoIP. B-)

Worst case scenario (3, Funny)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551238)

I lost slashdot for a day. I almost had to commit a suicide to relieve the pain.

Re:Worst case scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551606)

oh yeah? i almost had to commit two suicides. so there

Re:Worst case scenario (1)

Richard_L_James (714854) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552195)

I lost slashdot for a day. I almost had to commit a suicide to relieve the pain.

Shame it wasn't down for longer ;-)

I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551245)

The reason everybody said that the internet survived was that they were able to visit most of the sites they cared about during the blackout. The chart seems to show that many links and servers were down (presumably without power) during the blackout (including some major components of the internet), yet most people basically unaffected. This seems to suggest that as long as the server itself isn't in the middle of a blackout, the Internet can survive rather well. How many of your learned about the blackout from Slashdot or some other online news source?

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (1)

beebware (149208) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551288)

True, the internet did manage to "route around" affected areas - but obviously it couldn't "route into" them. It's a bit like a nuclear blast taking out Washington DC: the highway system would survive intact (well, mostly :) ) around the area and vehicles would be able to continue using it, but they couldn't drive into the area (unless, of course, you like mutations ;) ).

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (1)

void* (20133) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551697)

It seems to me that this article is complaining that they couldn't drive to downtown D.C. after the nuke hit.

'Lots of networks/servers/etc in the blackout area were unreachable'

Well, duh.

The most we learn from this is that if you want to stay up in a blackout, invest in better backup power systems. It is not, however, pointing out a significant weakness in the worldwide network as a whole.

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (4, Funny)

lunartik (94926) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551471)

How many of your learned about the blackout from Slashdot or some other online news source?

I learned about it when my card wouldn't swipe me out of the parking garage. And then when all of the traffic lights were out downtown. And then after searching the dial and finding the one AM station still on the air.

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551548)

That must have been tragic. How did you survive?!?!

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (1)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552036)

That must have been tragic. How did you survive?!?!

I made it home as quickly as I could... traffic was a nightmare and I only had less than a quarter of a tank of gas. I had decided I would wait until that night to fill up instead of getting it at lunch as I drove past a gas station. Little did I know gas stations don't even have generators to run the pumps (which seems kind of odd... they have plenty of gas to run the generators, but no electricity for the pumps. Lack of planning on their part IMHO).

Anyway, back to my exciting story! I drove home, got in the house and there was no electricity there either. The horror, oh the horror of having no appliances, no computers running in the background, no TV!!! NO TV!? How on earth do I get news? How do I entertain myself? I scurried about looking for some candles. I knew the impending darkness would be upon us soon, and I was damn well sure I would be prepared... err... wait a minute, this is kind of boring. Forget it.

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (1)

Keeper (56691) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552502)

I knew the impending darkness would be upon us soon, and I was damn well sure I would be prepared... err... wait a minute, this is kind of boring. Forget it.

For a minute there, I thought you were going to be starting on the next jurrasic park sequel...

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551964)

I was still sitting at my desk. Apparently my new UPS was no good. Not to mention the lack of overhead lighting...

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (2, Funny)

modder (722270) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551881)


From this tragic story, I must conclude that AM Radio is the only medium ready for critical infrastructure.

Re:I'm not sure I agree with their conclusions (1)

tedDancin (579948) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551963)

How many of your learned about the blackout from Slashdot or some other online news source?

Err.. Just as well Slashdot moved their servers from east coast to west!! (:

no surprise here (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551289)

I mean, nobody likes blacks out or blacks in, or blacks anywhere.

didn't affect me. (1, Troll)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551299)

but then again i'm in finland. and oh yeah, was on holidays. at our summer house. drinking alcohol too.

it got to the news quite fast though, thanks for keeping us entertained! we had all these wild theories on what the extra news report would be on and why it had happened!

seriously though, who cares if the internet works if the computers aren't on? i think that might have been the biggest problem.,.

all the more reasons to investigate newclear power (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551325)

this stuff is unbreakable, & wwworks on several (more than 3) dimensions.

you call this weather?

it's not hurting the 'net. sometimes the power goes out. you didn't know that?

Actually, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551590)

this stuff is unbreakable, & works on several (more than 3) dimensions.

First off, it's spelled 'n-u-c-l-e-a-r'. Second, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'unbreakable'. If you're refering to the enriched Uranium-238 rods they use to generate the power, than you're wrong. Nuclear fission, anyone?

it's not hurting the 'net.

Very incorrect. What do you think the Internet is powered by? Hampsters on wheels????

> sometimes the power goes out. you didn't know that?

Yes, there have been electricity shortages in the past, but the sort of indiffernce people like you display is what what stops us from preventing power outages in the future.

"Don't be part of the problem; be a part of the solution." -Bill Gates

Re: Power Outage (3, Insightful)

bwh265 (662121) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551329)

Air Canada lost it's reservations/bookings/everything servers, and couldn't operate anything approaching normally for one reason. The servers were based in the midst of the blackout.
Out here on the left coast, there were no effects. So why, don't international org.s and government departments have duplicate facilities on independant grids? That's always bugged me.

bwh

Re: Power Outage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551455)

$$$$$ That's why.

Re: Power Outage (2, Interesting)

tibike77 (611880) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551492)

Well, look at it this way... they say "an UPS is good enough, if power goes out it will go out a few seconds or maybe a half hour", and don't plan for a "worse-case" scenario, in which you have a few hours of "power outage"... so instead of saving everything, commiting caches and so on, they just keep on hoping "in a few seconds power will be back on"... I just hope they DID learn their lesson now, and cut back on cutbacks (lol).

Re: Power Outage (1)

devilspgd (652955) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551756)

Oh christ. Even my Windoze servers automatically stop write caching during a power outage, and shut themselves down when my UPS batteries run out (45-60 minutes on my last field test)

You can't tell me that "big corporations" don't have the basics covered insofar as the servers shutting themselves down when the UPSes are ready to drop off?

Re: Power Outage (1)

attonitus (533238) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551630)

Given that Air Crapanada regularly cancel east coast flights if there's the merest hint of a thunderstorm that might leave their crews / planes stranded somewhere that would be expensive to keep them for the night, it doesn't surprise me that they don't spend money on a decent back up strategy.

In fact, at the rate that they were (are?) losing money [canada.com] , having their operations shut down temporarily probably saved them a fortune. Sadly it looks like they have not been allowed to go bankrupt.

Re: Power Outage (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551701)

I have a pedal-powered generator. I'm my own grid.

The network is fine (1)

captaineo (87164) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551467)

If J random web server loses power and drops off-line, that's not a network outage. All but the most mom-and-pop of ISPs have redundant power anyway.

worked just fine here during blackout (5, Interesting)

bbn (172659) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551479)

I live in denmark and recently we had a blackout that lasted maybe 10 hours.

While I was unable to make any phone calls, I could get on the internet with GPRS and surf to our server with my laptop for as long as the laptop batteries lasted.

The server is hosted in a colo datacenter which was also in the middle of the affected area. We run a mud on the server, and most of the players are from USA. They never discovered the blackout as the datacenter went on emergency diesel backup and apparently knew to make business with backbone providers that also knew their stuff.

So to the people saying that internet can only route around blackout areas but not _through_ them, this is not true. Seems at least here in denmark all the infrastructure on the backbones got backup power and just keeps working when everyone else is busy lighting candles.

Re:worked just fine here during blackout (1)

pheede (37918) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551840)

I can verify this. Main Danish Internet access was totally unaffected by the blackout that encompassed all of Copenhagen - the Danish capital - and most of the rest of the island of Zealand.

I work right next to where the central Danish Internet Exchange (the 'DIX') is located. My company's servers are on a standard UPS so we had power for a couple of hours before we ran dry. While we still had power, our network connectivity was completely unaffected. The DIX and most major Danish ISPs have excellent power redundancy.

When we first started calling our customers, several of them hadn't heard about the blackout yet and were grateful for getting notified before we gracefully shut down the servers before backup power went out.

downed internet nodes == useless anyway. (2, Insightful)

DunbarTheInept (764) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551489)

The people affected by the downed routers were people who were in the blackout and couldn't turn on their computers anyway, so it doesn't matter that those machines were down. People outside the blackout were able to route around it, and THAT is the relevant part of the statement that the internet did well during the blackout.

Re:downed internet nodes == useless anyway. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551821)

You seem to be assuming that most servers people connect to are physically located near them. I doubt this is the case, and i'm sure there were some major, national businesses with servers in the NE that people from across the country were trying to connect to. Ideally such large companies wouldn't keep all their webservers in one physical location, but i don't think thats usually the case.

Re:downed internet nodes == useless anyway. (0)

Sjobeck (518934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551961)

Does that include people with laptops? People with UPS's on their desktops? C'mon, man, that aint true. There were thousands of people with computers up-n-running connected to a piece of dead cat5.

How? (1)

jfroot (455025) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551513)

I don't understand why critical systems were not backed up with UPSs and generators? Power failures happen everywhere. You should never be 100% reliant on utility power. A generator with adequate supply of diesel (and contract to keep it full for long term outages) is a must have for critical systems in my opinion.

Re:How? (1)

chiph (523845) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551668)

Because the large ISPs with the n-tier redundant power systems closed up shop [bankrupt.com] when the market crashed.

Everyone still around was feeling lucky to be alive, and didn't have the money to buy batteries *and* generators.

Chip H.

Re:How? (1)

cifey (583942) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551714)

you may have a backup battery for your servers but you could be an island in a sea of dead hops.
I suppose if you were using the internet as a critical service you would want backups lined to a major node, and probably more than one, and or have a sattelite relay.

critical to me (-1, Offtopic)

Box Checker (710832) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551522)

"They conclude that the Internet is not ready to be critical infrastructure" that may be so, but... it's critical to my ever expanding collection of porn! viva la money shots!

critical infrastructure (2, Insightful)

Lust (14189) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551575)

I work in a hospital in Toronto. There were almost NO facilities or services that functioned in the early parts of the blackout. Would you claim phones are a critical infrastructure? It's true that they worked during the power outage, but very quickly all the phone networks were too congested to provide service - this lasted for several hours. Radio stations continued to broadcast until their backups ran out and we were left with dead air. Thankfully, the hospitals had sufficient emergency generation to support several days without external power, but I wonder how could such a heavy power consumer as the internet rely on backup? It is really a question of "how many other essential services require internet connectivity during a blackout", because every citizen surely doesn't need it right now.

Radio and Blackouts (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552252)

Radio stations continued to broadcast until their backups ran out and we were left with dead air

Just some thoughts about 1998's power outage during winter [aol.com] . Apparently, the air conditioning was not working in the most recent major power failure, which caused people to sweat more than what they were accustomed to.

Radio in Montreal, until the ice storm, has been fairly stable [haya.qc.ca]

"This situation continued until 1200 when CJFM management decided that they had to "protect their audience" and returned to their regular music programming. As a concession to the storm and the fate of their AM counterpart CJFM did carry the expanded CJAD news broadcasts but apart from that a listener to CJFM would not have known that Montreal was enduring the worst storm in living memory."

I can't wait to see (2, Funny)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551621)

Internet outages when they start putting high speed internet on power lines...

Backwards logic (1)

GoRK (10018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551797)

Given that while major segments of network were taken out by the blackout, other large parts of the Internet including parts of the Internet inside the area with power failure remained unaffected -- as established by this report, one would likely conclude that the Internet is at least as reliable as the power grid if not quite a bit more so.

Given that the power grid is already considered critical infrastructure, it doesn't make sense why they would make the conclusion that the Internet is not suitable as such, although it's been established as more reliable (though not completely fault tolerant)

Their original conclusion was drawn based on logic working backwards from the failure.

my T-Mobile mobile worked great (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7551817)

It worked the whole duration of the 9 hour outage. The only problem I had was reaching local numbers; all the trunks for reaching local numbers were filled up. FirstEnergy's outage reporting number gave a busy signal right after I hit send or dialed it on a landline after about 10 minutes (I tried to call it a few times because I was pissed off; I was missing a good episode of Jerry :(

Then my landline died like 3 hours later. Completely. No voltage what so ever. but my mobile worked for the whole duration of the outage. Couldn't make any local calls for the first 30 minutes or so, but, oh well.

Oh yeah? (1, Funny)

HungWeiLo (250320) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551820)

They conclude that the Internet is not ready to be critical infrastructure."

Oh yeah? Boys Scouts like me have their 256 CDs of pr0n and mp3 ready in their trusty CaseLogic. We'll last a week longer than everyone else in the event of a catastrophic blackout.

At the risk of "Me Too" (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551838)

I'm just wondering what would constitute a good response to a wide-scale outage? I mean if New York is destroyed by a meteor that shower I wouldn't count on being able to pull up the Time's server.

Frankly people the internet is run along the same backbone as the telephone system. Why? Cost. It is as reliable as your major long-distance phone carriers, because it's switched right along side of the long distance phone network.

What bugs me far more than the internet going down is the fact that some morons think that generating power in Oregon and sending it across the country to Virginia to save $0.03 a kilowatt hour is somehow a bright idea.

It's like the dotcom people have taken their business plans and become utility consultants and lobbiests.

Severe local impact (1)

Florian Weimer (88405) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551860)

The data they present indicates that the blackout had a severe regional impact. I see nothing that shows that there was a significant global impact (meaning that I can't get data from AS 12374 to AS 553, for example).

The WTC collapse probably had more impact on global routing (some large carriers had primary and backup equipment in both basements).

Re:Severe local impact (3, Informative)

bjpremore (44556) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552662)

The data they present indicates that the blackout had a severe regional impact. I see nothing that shows that there was a significant global impact (meaning that I can't get data from AS 12374 to AS 553, for example).

That's correct. In fact, our data showed that it clearly did _not_ have global impact. (Compare with various worm events, which do generally have global impact: http://www.renesys.com/projects/bgp_instability/in dex.html
cod red ii and nimda report [renesys.com] )

The WTC collapse probably had more impact on global routing (some large carriers had primary and backup equipment in both basements).

Actually, it did not. It did affect some regions outside the US that had trans-Atlantic connectivity straight into NYC, but otherwise it was geographically well localized. This report (PDF slides) compares it to Code Red and Nimda:
http://www.renesys.com/projects/911/renesy s-030502 -NRC-911.pdf
9/11 report [renesys.com]

All right (1)

00RUSS (549125) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551883)

Time to go back to Sneaker-net

some things to note (5, Informative)

theCat (36907) | more than 10 years ago | (#7551898)

The vast majority of the networks that went dark were 24-bit in size. That is generally either small to medium businesses or home office, or a division of a larger business. I think we can all agree that outages at that level, though undesired, are not the end of the world. Small outfits and home office workers can afford the down time in the case of a general crisis (ie the buses aren't running, either, so go have a coffee and read the WSJ) and 4-8 hour outages on their DSL are not uncommon either. I know that is the case where I work, and we have a global presence too.

We invested in a very large portable battery backup system for our server room back when California was having its own blackouts. The stack would probably stay up an hour or so, which we figure is enough to manage most blackouts nicely, and anything longer than that is a "major cockup" that we need to wait out. But if we go down who will care? Just us, and not all that much.

I think that the general expectation regarding the internet is not that it will stay up 100% in a crisis, but that it will continue to operate in cells of functionality during most kinds of disaster, then recover quickly on its own as soon as it can built remote connections again. Compare that to the electric grid, where most or all cells of function were sucked empty and driven into the ground when the grid dried up, and engineers spent days coordinating their recovery so that the first cell to go online didn't feed the entire electric grid on its own. Tricky stuff.

TCP/IP is built to understand rolling outages and uncoordinated recovery. The electric grid still is not. That, I would submit, is the main issue and not that routers on the edge of small networks didn't have generator backup.

Oh really . . . (1)

levin (170168) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552092)

So when's someone gonna fess up and admit that the Power Grid is not ready for critical infrastructure either?

Re:Oh really . . . (1)

Maestro4k (707634) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552680)

  • So when's someone gonna fess up and admit that the Power Grid is not ready for critical infrastructure either?
Never, the power companies have better lobbiests.

Just wait, they'll try to blame the power grid collapse on the Internet or something. Perhaps it was a butterfly flapping its wings in Kalamazoo that caused it all!

hmmmm (2, Informative)

XO (250276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552125)

From having been around the Internet for the last 15 years now..

The Internet was a lot MORE capable of being infrastructure, before *.com happened. Since it has been commercialized, the backbones have become more and more important, and routing/re-routing less and less important.

"Error: No Route To Host" at one point in history, literally meant that the computer directly connecting the computer you were trying to reach was offline. Now, "No Route To Host" means that there was a power failure somewhere in the world that just happened to be in the way of your provider routing through a few other providers, or that a janitor somewhere kicked out a plug in Minnesota, while you were trying to connect from Michigan to Texas.

The system used to be able to route around virtually ANY connectivity issue. Now, it can't route it's way out of a wet paper bag.

don't you know what a parenthesis is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7552194)

ack! unclosed parenthesis... must stay calm... do not panic!

Internet not ready to be critical infrastructure? (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552246)

Well, maybe that's not obvious to some people. But to any sysadmin who's had to deal with choked networks in the wake of the latest Outlook exploit, it should bloody well be.

Hell, the recent blackout pretty much means that the electrical grid isn't ready to be critical infrastructure, either.

Re:Internet not ready to be critical infrastructur (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552528)

Hell, the recent blackout pretty much means that the electrical grid isn't ready to be critical infrastructure, either.

Let's not forget that part of the justification for building the Interstate highway system was that the high-speed roads could be closed down and used for military transport and possibly even as air strips in case the USA is even invaded. So, any civilian "in case of war" plan that depends on the highways being available is flawed because those roads just might not be open.

Truth is... there's no such thing as something that will always be there, all things can fail.

not to sound like a jerk (1)

el_guapo (123495) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552275)

but this surprises, WHO, exactly? i work for a large telco (I won't mention AT&T by name) and i can assure you that even if YOU were up, THEY were down. which effectively made YOU down as well. those few days SUCKED to work for a carrier, lemm tell you...

Internet not ready to be critical infrastructure?! (2, Insightful)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552331)

Newsflash: the internet is already critical infrastructure, and the power grid that failed is critical infrastructure and has been for the better part of a Century.

If you're saying that lack of failure defines whether something is critical or ready to be critical then I guess by that definition the electrical distribution grid isn't ready to be critical infrastructure. That is preposterous because it is and manages quite nicely for the most part. The rest is down to cost benefit.

I was at an internet center (2, Interesting)

Servo (9177) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552381)

I live and work in the NYC metro area, and was at work when the blackout started. I didn't notice there was a blackout until I walked outside and saw our generators on. For the record, I work for a company that provides services to large internet datacenters. Any datacenter worth its monthly fee wasn't affected by the power outage. Yes, individual institutions including banks etc etc who weren't prepared did lose connectivity, but backbone providers and large carrier centers in the area didn't skip a beat.

Re:I was at an internet center (1)

BubbleNOP (688841) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552676)

RoadRunner [rr.com] in Central New York lost connectivity then, affecting me for about a day.

Re:I was at an internet center (2, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7552724)

Just wondering... even though you had normal capacity through the blackout, did your site maintain normal usage? Having the datacenter up is nice, but datacenters only exist to store information generated in the "real world".

If a datacenter's up, but nobody's online to use it, do the servers still hum?
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