Data Centers Prove Earthquake Proof

by: Paolo Gorgo

Operations at most data centers in the East Coast of the USA continued smoothly even after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia just before 2 pm. local time yesterday.

It appears that staff was evacuated at several locations, but services continued mostly unaffected during the day.

Data Center Knowledge published an update, soon after the event, about some of the largest data centers players located close to the epicenter of the quake – and the earthquake was described as a non-event for most of them.

Terremark [now a Verizon (NYSE:VZ) subsidiary], whose NAP of the Capital Region data fortress in Culpeper, Virginia is about 35 miles from the quake’s epicenter in Mineral, Va., reported no issues. Also unaffected was QTS – Quality Technology Services, which operates a huge data center in Richmond.

DuPont Fabros (NYSE:DFT) and Digital Realty Trust (NYSE:DLR) reported no issues with any of their facilities related to the earthquake and its aftermath. Both companies own multiple data centers in northern Virginia.

According to PC World, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) suffered no impact from the earthquake:

Amazon Web Services, which operates a large data center in Virginia, said its services were unaffected. "All AWS services in the U.S. East region are operating normally at the present time," a spokeswoman said via e-mail.

One AWS customer did report a brief uptick in page loading times. SeatGeek, a search site for tickets, saw a "pretty nasty" spike in its page response times when the earthquake struck.

"Over here at SeatGeek, we were excitedly discussing the tremor when Mike, our trusty SysAdmin, realized that our Amazon AWS servers were all in Virginia, right near the epicenter," the company said in a blog post, where it posted a graph showing the slowdown.

"Lessons Learned? 1) Earthquakes make Web Servers sad [and] 2) Real time system monitoring is awesome," the company wrote. The spike lasted about two minutes, SeatGeek said.

Equinix (NASDAQ:EQIX) wrote on its FB page that “at this time, all Equinix data centers and offices on the East Coast are operating normally after the DC-area earthquake”. Equinix hosts several exchanges and financial institutions in its New York metro data centers, mostly located in Secaucus.

The WSJ gets into more details related to the impact of the earthquake to stock trading:

Representatives for NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX), Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. (NASDAQ:NDAQ), BATS Global Markets, Direct Edge and the International Securities Exchange said that dealing in securities and stock options continued unabated following the earthquake.

The quake tested the high-tech infrastructure supporting stock and derivatives markets that are now heavily electronic. New York-area data centers run by NYSE Euronext and specialist firms such as Equinix Inc. and Telx Group Inc. saw no hitches affecting the trades and messages among exchanges, brokers and proprietary trading firms.

Information Week reports what happened at the NYSE Euronext new Mahwah data center:

NYSE Euronext's investment in a $500 million data center revamp last year may have just paid off. The sizeable earthquake that shook much of the East Coast on Tuesday had little impact on the exchange's operations despite the physical jolt and a subsequent spike in trading.

"So far so good," said Lou Pastina, NYSE's director of floor operations. "Our data center is functioning fine, our systems are all function functioning. We’re going to close out the day, unless we hear something else," Pastina told CNBC.

It is interesting to note that NYSE noticed a brief, panic related spike in sell orders after the quake:

The exchange had to deal with a spike in sell orders moments after the quake struck, but the market quickly recovered once it was clear there was no catastrophic damage. "If things were worse we’d have normally shut down to the extent that we could do that. We're not there yet but we’re monitoring the situation," Pastina said.

Bottom line, the high quality of the data center offering in the U.S. East Coast region proved once more to be able to stand natural events without service interruption, or with very little impact on the availability of services – which may also become, as Japan taught us recently, essential communication lifelines for people after these events.

Disclosure: I am long EQIX.