Google's Luck

There's no escape - if it's not earthquakes and floods, it's hurricanes and tornadoes

May 9, 2007

2 Min Read
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5:35 PM -- There's something about a category 5 tornado that puts the kibosh on puns and frivolity.

So when we reported last week that Google had all but signed deals to build two different data centers in the Midwest, we have to admit we didn't think about the weather contingencies. (See Google.)

North America gets hit by more tornadoes than anywhere else on earth. An accident of geography, the north-south orientation of the Rocky Mountains forms a perfect conduit for delivering cold Arctic air into air warmed by the Caribbean and tropics. The American Midwest is the mixing ground where such collisions produce highly unstable air, often with catastrophic results.

And the jaw-dropping images from Greensburg, Kan. from late last week put that into a different perspective for at least one of our readers, Canadian VC Paul Kedrosky, who linked to our story on his blog's weekend reading list, with the provocative teaser, "Google is locating new data centers in the U.S.'s tornado alley."

If Google considered the possibilities of such extreme weather, it's not saying. The search giant is reportedly more interested in the state tax incentives, cheaper electrical power, and access to presumably more affordable high-speed fiber lines.Still, we were curious about what, if any, steps MidAmerica Industrial Park (MAIP) takes to protect against such catastrophes. Subterranean data centers? Make sure tenants and clients have insurance that doesn't exclude acts of god?

We asked Sanders Mitchell, an administrator for MAIP, Pryor Creek, Okla., near Tulsa about this. "Each part of the country has its own warts," he writes in an email today. Whether it's "west coast earthquakes, east and south coast hurricanes, and northern states' long cold winters as well as tornados up north and back east," there's no escaping the vagaries of weather and geography. "And you're right, make sure of the insurance exclusions," he adds.

Clearly, nature happens. Scientists estimate the U.S. ensures 20 million lightning strikes annually. Hundreds of thousands of seismic tremors also occur each year.

I'm not tip-toeing up to some cheer about the benefits of remote backup here. Consider it a meditation on the randomness of fate and circumstance. Being prepared is good, but in poker as in life, I'd rather be lucky than good.

Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Byte and Switch0

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