May 29, 2003
InstaOutage for NAC
A power outage at the Parsippany, NJ data center of Net Access Corporation took a fair portion of the "Blogosphere" offline for much of yesterday. Among the casualties was InstaPundit, the standardbearer for the weblog sector. Instapundit author Glenn Reynolds was able to post to an InstaBackup blog he maintains at BlogSpot for just such an emergency. Not so lucky were customers of several hosting providers housed at NAC that are widely used by Bloggers, including Hosting Matters and Blogomania. The outage lasted 12 hours for some of Hosting Matters' servers, according to the company's customer support forum. So what happened?
Net Access posted an explanation of the event on its website. While some affected customers used the word "fire" in explaining the outage to their readers, NAC described a "component failure" at the Parsippany data center at 10:20 am.
"We had no warning of this failure, and we are currently investigating the cause," NAC said. "This failure triggered the fire alarms and the fire suppression system, and caused the UPS unit to drop all power to (the data center). In addition, because this failure caused the fire alarms to be set off, the entire building had to be evacuated while the fire department investigated. NAC personnel worked with the fire department to ensure the building environment was safe to re-enter."
Because of the way news bounces around weblogs, the outage became widely discussed on the Net. I encountered it being discussed on several of the blogs I read daily.
I'll admit to being badly bitten by the blogging bug, which means that my Web reading has expanded beyond the usual insane number of sites I read each day. Alas, it's not just reading, either. In addition to authoring the Wired Space blog you're reading now, I pen a number of personal blogs, including Technosponge.
May 21, 2003
C&W Sale Rumors
The Cable & Wireless rumor mill has gotten active again, getting new life from a story in today's London Times that the company has decided to sell its struggling US unit. The paper doesn't cite a specific source for its story, which predicts the June 4 announcement of a "radical restructuring" of the company. But it says new CEO Francesco Caio has made his plans known to senior executives in recent days.
The US unit of C&W consists primarily of the former assets of Exodus Communications and Digital Island, which were both purchased in early 2002. There were widespread rumors last fall that the US unit would be shut down completely, but the Nov. 15 announcement turned out to be less radical than many pundits had predicted, with the company opting to shutter 12 of its former Exodus data centers in the US.
C&W shares tanked amid concerns that the restructuring hadn't gone far enough and that C&W management had done a poor job disclosing the costs of escaping leases on US data centers. That view is repeated in today's Times story: "A clean disposal would be welcomed by the City as a sign that Mr Caio is prepared to take a firm grip on the sprawling business built up by the previous chief executive, Graham Wallace, in pursuit of multinational business customers."
Once again, the rumors raise worst-case scenarios: "If the company cannot find a buyer, the US unit is likely to be shut down," The Times reports. "That would generate sizeable restructuring costs, estimated by Citigroup earlier this week to be around £600 million in cash, as the company will have to foreclose on property leases and pay off staff."
As a I said, we've heard this before. The rumor fatigue must be pretty high among C&W staff here in the US. Looks like there's more in store, at least until June 4.
May 19, 2003
Biometrics and Security
Interest in biometric security devices has risen since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, prompting debates among security experts and civil libertarians about the effectiveness and appropriateness of these new technologies. In light of that, I was intrigued by some data released last week by The Data Center Institute showing that just 5 percent of the data center managers surveyed were using biometric devices for physical security. I guess I expected a slightly higher number.
The Data Center Institute - an affiliate of the AFCOM trade group - sent surveys on security to 3,000 data center managers, and received responses from 257 of them. Not surprisingly, about half said their companies were spending more on information security, a trend that is likely to continue.
But when it comes to physical security, card keys remain the primary tool of choice for restricting access, having been implemented by 84 percent of respondents. Security cameras and photo ID badges were each used by 74.5 percent of survey participants, while 63.6 percent required escorts within the data center.
Way back in last place were biometric security devices, which were used by 5.5 percent of those surveyed. This low number was a little surprising, as I've been in quite a few data centers in the past couple years, and many of them had some kind of biometric system - a thumb scanner, a palm scanner, or in some cases even a retina scanner.
Cost is an issue for those who were not using biometrics, 24 percent of whom said it was "too costly" while another 14 percent said it was "not in the budget." But more than 38 percent of respondents said there was simply no demand for that level of security.
The low number of biometrics adoption may reflect the fact that AFCOM's member base is heavy on corporate data center managers with in-house facilities, which have different security issues and needs than a muti-tenant colocation or managed hosting center.
Are biometric security devices necessary, or worth the expense? Share your experiences and opinions in our comments section below.
May 15, 2003
DataPort Shelves Plans
US Dataport has shelved plans for a huge data center campus in Prince William County, Virginia, the company said this week. When it was announced in October 2000, the Virginia Gateway project envisoned a campus of up to 20 data centers on a 189-acre parcel, with a potential 3.75 million square feet of mission-critical space.
US DataPort's web site still states that "The demand for special building environments to house, connect, and protect data and data networking is going through the roof." But it seems a more realistic view of the market has emerged at the company.
A second huge project in San Jose, Calif. has also been delayed indefinitely, according to local media reports. The Silicon Valley Internet Campus stirred controversy, as it was unveiled in the midst of California's power crisis. To address concerns about adequate power, the site plans for the 154-acre project included the 180-megawatt Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility to help support up to 2.1 million square feet of space.
May 07, 2003
Teaming Up on DR
Two Minneapolis/St. Paul service providers have come up with a novel way to sell disaster recovery services to local businesses. Verispace and Agiliti are jointly marketing a business continuity package in which Twin Cities companies can easily set up primary and backup installations in the providers' two data centers, which are on opposite sides of the metro area.
"This agreement provides a service delivery platform that just hasn't been available in the Twin Cities until now," said Dave Walstad, Agiliti's vice president of sales and marketing. Customers can have their IT systems hosted at Agiliti's data center in St. Paul's Energy Park, Walstad explained, while the VeriSpace facility in Edina can host their recovery systems - or vice versa. The providers are offering packages that will establish a completely mirrored "hot site" at the alternate data center to provide rapid recovery of business operations in the event of a disaster or failure.
"The arrangement offers an important geographic advantage for the customers of both firms - giving them access to world-class hosting centers on both sides of the metro," said Gene Randol, president of VeriSpace. The marketing agreement also calls for Agiliti to provide managed IT service options to customers located in the VeriSpace data center and to provide on-site engineering and maintenance support 24 X 7. The Agiliti and VeriSpace data centers are now in the process of being linked via a high-speed fiber-optic connection.
The first customer is RemotePipes Inc., which provides enterprises with remote Internet access and
network access when their employees are away from the office. "We needed to have two data centers connected via high-speed links for disaster-recovery and high-availability purposes," said Doug Bonestroo, CEO of remote Pipes. "The big benefit for us with this Agiliti-VeriSpace partnership is the peace of mind that comes along with a geographically distributed application architecture. If St. Paul
suffers a catastrophic outage and Minneapolis is still available, we're still in business."
May 06, 2003
Cuts at Sprint Hosting
Sprint has laid off an undisclosed number of employees in its Web hosting operations, formerly known as Sprint E|Solutions, the company said today. The cuts were part of a larger reduction in staff that eliminated 575 jobs companywide, but the hosting cuts were not broken out. "The positions that have been affected have primarily been in sales," said Sprint spokesman Jeff Shafer, who said the move was intended to create "a more unified sales organization." While the news was grim for former E|Solutions sales staffers, the news was better for landlords, as Shafer said the company will continue to operate all 10 of its hosting centers.
Sprint was somewhat late to the web hosting game. In 2000 and 2001, when many companies began scaling back their ambitions as dot-coms and CLECs began to fail, Sprint was building out its hosting footprint by leasing space in 100,000 square foot chunks. The company currently has data centers in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Sacramento, Boston, Denver, Silicon Valley (Santa Clara), Dallas, Kansas City and Reston, Va.
Industry chatter suggests the centers remain significantly underutilized. Earlier this year the E|Solutions unit was merged with the Sprint Business unit as the company sought to streamline its sales and customer service operations. "We sell (hositng solutions) integrated with everything else we sell," said Sprint's Shafer.