Keep the datacentre lights on during a pandemic

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COVID-19 has made frontline workers of MSPs and datacenter operators.

It is the role of datacentre operators to be resilient and keep the “lights on” during a major disrupting event.

While the current pandemic has proved to be challenging for organisations everywhere, lessons from past environmental catastrophes have proven to be effective in dealing with the current global situation.

According to a new report by 451 Research, commissioned by Equinix, governments (as a result of COVID-19) are starting to consider datacenters as mission-critical infrastructure; alongside power and water utilities due to their integral role in keeping economies, hospitals and society in working order – from dissemination of information to online shopping.

However this has placed an increased importance on providers’ own business continuity plans (BCPs), states the report.

German internet exchange DE-CIX has already achieved record traffic peaks (and the highest jump it has seen in a short period) as a result of recent events. In some European countries, internet use has been up as much as 50 per cent.

Companies relying on VPNs have been scrambling for additional bandwidth, service providers have been seeking to add servers to increase service delivery and PoPs are being rolled out to address growing demand for technology during this testing time.

How are datacentre providers ensuring business continuity in these times? According to 451, when the seriousness of the outbreak was understood, most providers implemented a mandatory ‘stop’ on all travel and a WFH order on all nonessential staff.

“Business teams have been relying on remote working tools, conducting meetings from home offices, etc,” states the report. “In some cases, management has been split into teams to ensure the running of the business if certain staff members take ill.”

The research firm writes, both staff and customers require access to facilities. These must remain on-site – or at least have access to environments.

“On top of standard hygiene procedures, such as hygiene stations and setting guidelines for entry (based on possible symptoms or travel from high-risk areas, with guidance from the World Health Organisation and local bodies), many providers have trained security teams in fever screening,” the report states.

“Customers (and business staff) are often kept separate from datacenter provider operational teams, which themselves are split into multiple groups – three or more in most cases – that work in shifts and individually to try and limit exposure to the virus.”

Datacenters are 24×7 operations, and in most cases, providers run two teams covering two shifts each week – current plans ensure these teams never meet and a backup team is always on standby, states 451.

“Providers want to keep traffic through data halls to a minimum – often one person at a time – and many are offering reduced prices for remote-hands services or even free services,” states the research firm.

There are also efforts by providers to track and trace movements within datacenters and between datacenters. These arrangements have had a knock-on effect leading to increased demand across the outsourced operational management industry, with some providers using outsourced datacenter teams.

Importantly the pandemic is also affecting some security measures, such as biometrics and fingerprint entry.

“Many providers are considering how safe these measures are in terms of contagion risk, and in some cases sign-in and registration books have been suspended,” states 451.

The industry is also considering its requirements for special disinfecting cleaning measures, although some providers say they have been concerned about their ability to gain access to the right specialist cleaners (that also work in sensitive datacenter environments – often CDC-approved) due to current high demand.


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