Oregon Data Centers Weather the Storm

Terrorist planning helps officials deal with current emergency

December 6, 2007

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

If you think that you have got problems dealing with the day-to-day hassles of running a data center, then spare a thought for IT managers in the Pacific Northwest who have had to contend with floods and vicious storms over the last few days.

With a state of emergency declared in Oregon and Washington, IT managers have had to concentrate on getting core infrastructure up and running again. "Two nights ago the winds were so bad that the power companies were not even dispatching their people," explained Mark Reyer, data center administrator for the State of Oregon, during an interview with Byte and Switch last night.

With many coastal communities in the western parts of the state wrecked by floods and wind damage, Reyer said that the first priority was to get basic utilities in place. "We have got to get the power going in these communities before we address network issues," he explained.

Although Reyer's own data center in Salem, Ore., about 40 miles from Portland, was unscathed by the recent freak weather, the official said that he is working on getting outlying communities linked up to the state's IT infrastructure again.

"The issues for us are the small towns along the coast that may have a DMV office that doesn't have any connectivity," he said, explaining that he is working closely with the state's emergency teams to rectify this problem. "We have some satellite communications that we dispatch out for voice and IP connectivity back to the data center."Managed services provider ViaWest took the Pacific Northwest's heavy rainfall and vulnerability to floods into consideration when it chose the location of its Hillsboro, Ore., data center, about 10 miles from Portland.

"I would guess that we're about 300 feet above downtown Portland, which is the confluence of the Columbia and Williamette rivers," said Steve Prather, ViaWest's vice president of sales and operations. There are floods in and around that area every couple of years, he added.

ViaWest also mirrors its data to four other data centers in Utah and Colorado to ensure that its systems will not be interrupted by any unforeseen events, according to the exec.

Another firm that escaped the worst of the storm was cable operator BendBroadband, which is located in Bend, near the center of the state.

"Outside power lines were affected when a few trees took them down, but we had no power outages," said Wade Holmes, supervisor of the firm's network operations center. "We never had to start the generators or get out the buckets.""We felt that our existing [disaster recovery] plans were adequate," explained Holmes, adding that BendBroadband synchronously mirrors its 30-Tbyte EMC SAN to a nearby facility.

Like ViaWest and BendBroadband, the State of Oregon's IT team has also realized the benefits of good disaster recovery planning. "As part of homeland security, we had something called TOPOFF 4 in Oregon a few months ago, which is basically a simulated terrorist disaster," said Reyer, explaining that this ran for three days, and included simulated bombings.

"We were pretty well prepared [for the current emergency] because we had gone through a very rigorous test," added Reyer. "It was really quite a good test for our disaster recovery procedures, not just in our data centers, but in the state."

With cheap and plentiful hydroelectric power, the Pacific Northwest is becoming an increasingly popular location for building data centers, particularly at a time when users are trying to get a tighter control on energy costs.

Both Google, and Yahoo, for example, have chosen to build massive new data centers on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • BendBroadband

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • ViaWest Inc.

  • Yahoo Inc.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights