back to article Data centers dig in as monster storm strikes America's East Coast

With a major snowstorm set to hit the East Coast of the US tonight, datacenter facilities in the hardest hit areas are hunkering down for what looks to be a rough weekend. According to the National Weather Service, the storm is expected to bring as much as two feet of snow over the weekend to a major portion of the Eastern …

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  1. Notas Badoff Silver badge
    WTF?

    Nagging worries...

    Are the data centers saying they are doing all these wonderful things - now - so that they can claim they are "pro-active"? Umm, why were they waiting to do these worthy things?

    If they hadn't had several days warning to prepare... how were they going to claim that being down was out of their control, due to unforeseen calamity, when they are *already* supposed to be prepared to stay up according to the contracts!

    It just sounds like they are trying to catch up now with the guarantees they already sold? How about clarifications and/or rebates...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Nagging worries...

      Who the fuck need a fucking telephone in this kind of situation? Shirley understanding how to survive in real weather is far more important?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: Nagging worries...

        Jake, sadly there are people out there for whom being able to access Tvvitter and Le livre des visages and whatnot is a life-or-death situation. (Hm. Why did the name Darwin just pop up in my mind?)

        Anyway, two feet of snow* shouldn't be more than a minor inconvenience**. If it is, there's something wrong.

        *In an area where snow isn't a phenomenon only known from books and tales told by visiting strangers, but falls from the sky every smegging year, and around the same time of year too.

        **Then again, I have relatives in Norway. The very north of Norway. And in the Alps. So my standards re coping with snow may be somewhat biased.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Nagging worries...

          Le livre des visages

          I have never heard of that particular grimoire.

          Do you go mad when reading it (irrespective of whether you are a Mad Arab named Abdul or not)

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: Nagging worries...Do you go mad when reading it

            Not mad perhaps but apparently there is evidence that heavy use of le livre des visages can cause a degree of depression. More amitriptyline than Aleister Crowley.

          2. fedoraman
            Coat

            Re: Nagging worries...

            I don't go mad, but I just get these headaches ....

        2. Joe Drunk
          Pint

          Re: Nagging worries...

          Anyway, two feet of snow* shouldn't be more than a minor inconvenience**. If it is, there's something wrong.

          It really is just a minor inconvenience. We received 22 inches (55.8 CM) of snowfall in my area. That's probably the most in a decade but not life-altering. I've been through this way too many times. Basically during such a storm you are locked in your home for 1 day as they close major highways and shut down mass transit temporarily. Lots of vehicles get stuck or spin out due to icy road conditions, 4 wheel drive helps but no much from what I see out my window. You shouldn't be on the roads unless there is some extreme emergency that warrants the risk. Otherwise you stock up and purchase enough food/supplies/beer for 1 day of sitting around in your pajamas. One day only. Not clearing the grocery shelves of all bread/milk/bottled water/shovels/rock salt and the other mass hysteria you witness in the media. Stupid sheeple.

          I find this to be an excellent day to catch up on hobbies/online gaming marathon/streaming binge and snuggling up with a significant other.

          Today is snow removal, a few hours of work for this amount of snow. The highways have reopened and mass transit will be resuming shortly. Everything will be back to normal, just like it always has been during every large snowfall we've ever had in this area since I've been alive. One day of sitting around in your pajamas. That's all a blizzard equates to.

          The only ones who suffered are those experiencing power outages. I feel for these people because that means they probably have no heating and it is bitter cold right now.

          But mostly I feel for those who work in any data center environment because they have worked long, hard hours during this storm (I'm speaking from experience). Beer icon for them, and thanks for keeping our data pipes intact.

          1. Vic

            Re: Nagging worries...

            22 inches (55.8 CM)

            Really?

            Vic.

        3. jake Silver badge

          Re: Nagging worries...

          "I have relatives in Norway."

          All my Great Grand Parents are from Finland, north of the arctic circle. I have over-wintered with my kin five times. I thought I knew something about snow & ice (Denali). Boy, was I wrong ...

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nagging worries...

          I live in the north, well mid going by the length (Nordland), of Norway, not in Finnmark you are probably talking about, but 2 feet of snow in a weekend, nothing, that's time to bring out the BBQ :p

          But seriously, if it was only 2 feet of snow over the weekend, the roads would be cleared, I would also be out a couple of times a day to clear my driveway around my house (with the tractor).

          If somewhere gets snowfall every year, I don't see why it should be a problem.

      2. Credas Silver badge

        Re: Nagging worries...

        Maybe you'd fucking need one to call for fucking help if you had a fucking medical emergency. Or a fire. Or one of the many other reasons that real people need a telephone even if they are well-equipped survivalists hunkered down in their fully stocked shelters.

      3. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Nagging worries...

        Suppose you wife had a heart attack. Telephone call to emergency is said to be more helpful than shouting "Toughen the fuck up!". I may be wrong, of course.

        1. Def Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Nagging worries...

          If my wife suddenly had a heart attack, my first thought would be 'when the fuck did I get a wife?'. ;)

          1. Long John Brass Silver badge

            Re: Nagging worries...

            > when the fuck did I get a wife?

            This is not my beautiful wife; This is not my beautiful life

            And I think it works like this....

            http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/inertia-selling

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Nagging worries...

              To all the folks babbling about "getting an emergency call out" ... what makes you think that if you can't get to the hospital, emergency services can get to you? And aren't already so overloaded with calls that you are just background radiation? Have you really thought this through?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Nagging worries...

                "what makes you think that if you can't get to the hospital, "

                In most snowy situations in the UK, roads are blocked not by snow but by ill-prepared vehicles and/or drivers. Much the same goes for floods, as has been seen in several parts of the UK not long ago.

                Emergency services (and the other folks that help out when things get bad, as has happened recently in the UK) frequently have bad weather plans, skills, and equipment. These have a much better chance of working OK without excessive risk if dumb people don't set out unprepared on journeys they don't need to do, and then end up blocking other more important folks when they abandon their unnecessary journeys.

                Other folks delayed or blocked in such circumstances include not just the emergency services, but gritting wagons, and such.

                "already so overloaded with calls that you are just background radiation?"

                They might be. They might not be. If genuine emergency calls can't get through because of people chatting about last night's Corrie, or even justifiably whinging about the incompetence of the Highways Agency ...

                The emergency services cannot help those who they are unaware of. They cannot prioritise what they are unaware of.

                Have YOU really thought this through?

              2. Def Silver badge

                Re: Nagging worries...

                ...what makes you think that if you can't get to the hospital, emergency services can get to you?

                The fact that they own more helicopters than me.

  2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

    ...is a start. If an outage lasts more than a day, whose phone has the stamina to keep going? Some people I see lug an auxiliary battery pack around with them for normal usage, let alone in emergency.

    In an emergency situation, just how do you lock down your phone to receive only emergency communications which don't eat battery life? Would these be phone calls, texts, emails? To my mind the best way to do this is to have a separate phone with separate email address. All normal comms will ask you to manually redial/resubmit to the emergency device.

    How do you communicate status out from the disaster-stricken area? A lot of companies use Twitter for this purpose, but what happens when that's down? Perhaps it's time to revisit NNTP.

    1. keithpeter
      Coat

      Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

      "To my mind the best way to do this is to have a separate phone with separate email address."

      I'd just swap my SIM card into the old Blackberry 7230. Still has a 5 day battery life and does email (just re-authenticate the email address) as well as phone/sms. Can trickle charge off USB wherever you can find another device with some juice.

      Disclaimer: I'm in mild, slightly damp UK

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

        >I'd just swap my SIM card into the old Blackberry 7230.

        If you only need it to call 999 (or 911) you don't need a sim.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

        Disclaimer: I'm in mild, slightly damp UK

        Where of course snow is just a thing of the past presumably making UK datacentres immune from this kind of disaster.

        However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

        “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

        From The Independent 20 March 2000

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

          Well yes, but a couple of meters of water on the roads is getting much more common, and is much harder to deal with.

          1. Steve Evans

            Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

            "Well yes, but a couple of meters of water on the roads is getting much more common, and is much harder to deal with."

            You're just not shovelling fast enough!

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

          Very true according to El Reg. It seems there was an article here just recently about you chaps having weather suitable for raising hippopotami.

          Icon ----> Chilly and rainy here in the PNW of the US.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

      This kind of situation requires survival, not !GooMyFaceYouMSTwit.

      Stressing on your connectivity is contra indicated.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

        Do you know phones can be used for other things, e.g. call to see if a friend or loved one is OK or (hope you don't need) call for help?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

          > This kind of situation requires survival

          Survival in America: Get to the next 7/11 when roads are blocked.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

            "Get to the next 7/11 when roads are blocked."

            This yank hasn't visited a 7-11 in over 45 years. HTH.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

          "call to see if a friend or loved one is OK"

          Thus overloading the already stressed system, and becoming a part of the problem. I mean, seriously, what could you do if they were in trouble in such a scenario anyway?

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

      Most phones can work for over a week when turned off.

      It's more worrying that water damage would get them in a real disaster situation.

      But turning it on, then off, ever hour or so may be enough. Or a "endurance" mode and not using Facebook should be fine for receiving emergency communications.

      And by "emergency" I mean the life and death type. The business call can wait...

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

        "Most phones can work for over a week when turned off."

        They'll hold charge much longer than that if kept within their recommended temperature range... i.e. don't leave it on a cold window ledge (or snow drift), the battery won't like it.

        Just turning off data will increase the life significantly, although I suspect most won't know how to switch their phone to "phone only" mode, but as you say, the ultimate solution is to have the phone charged, and off, or at least airline mode... Turn the cell radios back on when you need to use it for an emergency.

        If you're worried about relatives and friends, you could always arrange set times to check in, and leave the phone in low power mode for a majority of the time.

        Also, charge the laptop... They're a useful source of USB power to recharge your phone. As are most modern cars, or even old ones with lighter socket adapters.

        Although having said all that, personally I'd want to prioritise that I have a way of preparing hot food/drink if the electrics went out more than the phone!

        - Yup, I own a couple of paraffin (kerosene) primus stoves :-D

        Stay safe people.

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

        "It's more worrying that water damage would get them in a real disaster situation."

        The disaster will have to get all three of our Sonys, then. The first one was bought to replace a waterproof Sonim which paid several visits to deep puddles. And they have a "Stamina" mode.

        In the UK (and the US based on Apple sales) water resistance and long battery life don't seem to be perceived as important.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: ...advising customers to keep their phone batteries charged...

      I've got a spare phone that I keep with a charged battery strapped to it in a bag with other essentials (such as cash, radio, AA batteries, energy bars etc.) which I can grab in an emergency if I have to leave the house. My smartphone has an ultra power saving mode (Samsung) which does what it says on the tin and shuts down most functions. I have a spare USB battery pack and cables to keep the phone charged when running low. I've also got enough tinned and dried food to last about a week. Having said all that I've sat through the odd hurricane and seriously bad weather on the eastern Atlantic seaboard in the US and I know it pays to be prepared.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Uh ...

    Whatever happened to N+1 data centers for important shit?

    Oh. Never mind. The bean-counters. Marketing and management. My bad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uh ...

      The company I toil for is large enough to be able to afford/need multiple datacenters. All our critical applications are architected to be either active-active across two or more datacenters, or have the ability to rapidly fail over.

      That said, we still regularly conduct generator tests, we ensure our diesel tanks are topped up, and for this event we have ensured our DC-area datacenter is prepared for staff to shelter-in-place for as long as needed.

      It is not a case of either-or; you do both.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uh ...

        "The company I toil for is large enough to be able to afford/need multiple datacenters. All our critical applications are architected to be either active-active across two or more datacenters, or have the ability to rapidly fail over."

        How quaint. Got any jobs going, for people who know how stuff like that is done, and aren't so up to speed on shiny DevOpsOnRails or whatever next weeks trend is?

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Uh ...

        "we ensure our diesel tanks are topped up"

        The question is, do you ensure the H2O is drained out of the bottom?

        1. Kernel

          Re: Uh ...

          "he question is, do you ensure the H2O is drained out of the bottom?"

          Why would you do this - in all the installations I've seen (and that's quite a few over 40 years in the telco business) the fuel is lifted from the bulk tank to a ready tank - sometimes referred to as the day tank - and then passes through a number of water separators immediately before being allowed anywhere near an injector pump. The water separators are typically mounted beside or on the engine itself. You never, ever, assume there is no water any diesel tank.

          If you're silly enough to operate a diesel - any diesel, big or small - without any form of water separator then you deserve to have it grind to an expensive halt.

          You'd know all this if you'd ever owned a diesel car, or indeed ever operated any diesel at all, from a little single cylinder portable up to the largest ship's engine..

  4. Bill M

    A nice cup of tea

    A stove powered by bottled gas is essential so one can be sure of having a nice cup of tea during the panic meetings about why the contingency power has failed.

    1. et tu, brute?
      Coat

      Re: A nice cup of tea

      Coffee for me please... you can keep the tea!

      >> Mine's the one with the packet of ground coffee and a cafetière in the (big) pockets...

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: A nice cup of tea

      A stove powered by bottled gas

      Be aware that butane stays liquid when below zero Celcius, so you either need to have a butane/propane mix (or pure propane), or you switch to an MSR/Primus/Jewel/Trangia.

      Regarding making tea, or coffee, you cannot be too prepared.

      (the fleece-lined one, ta)

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: A nice cup of tea

        Be aware that butane stays liquid when below zero Celcius, so you either need to have a butane/propane mix (or pure propane), or

        use a wood burning cookstove that also acts as a space heater and services your hot water needs. Having your own woodlot helps. And it's cheap. Bosky (Thermo Rossi) make excellent stoves.

    3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: A nice cup of tea

      For ultimate stove reliability, since there are potential problems with bottled gas, nothing beats a Dometic meths powered stove. Get the meths from the local agricultural suppliers. Smells a bit in use but you always know how much fuel you have and it's virtually idiot proof.

  5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Checklist

    Big boxes of pot nodles*, Mars bars, fizzy drinks and tea.

    And some blankets to build a fort in mission control.

    Sorted.

    *You did stock up on fuel for the generator, didn't you?

    1. Ali Um Bongo
      Thumb Up

      Big boxes of pot nodles

      One simply adores Pot Nodles. But, one has to say, one almost prefers Cup-O-Soaps.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Big boxes of pot nodles

        I really hope that wasn't a typo. :o) For emergency washing I would hope.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Checklist

      "Mars bars"

      Don't these need a deep fat fryer?

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Checklist

        Well they do need a deep fryer in the cold. When I was rather more heavily involved with the UK forces (a long time ago), we had RolLos in our ration packs and not Mars bars. The reason being that you could break off the odd roll and warm it in your mouth in order to eat it. Mars bars froze very solidly, and shattered when a hard implement was used to get them into appropriately sized lumps.

  6. x 7 Silver badge

    these east coast storms usually work their way across the Atlantic after a week or so........any news on whether this one is likely to come across? I'm just debating how many bags of salt to buy

    1. Rusty 1

      Just the one. And a bag of limes and a bottle of Mescal.

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