Techerati: The Blackout Report And Data Centre Power Continuity

Our new analysis ‘the Blackout report’ investigates the possibility of a UK-wide power failure. We explain why data centres are better prepared than most for such a major disruption.

The middle of June saw a huge power failure impacting practically all of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It left 50 million people without electricity. And it also posed the question: “could this happen in the UK?”.

That’s exactly what we’ve tackled in our major new publication the Blackout report. The 50+ page, 15,000 word document reveals there’s a 1-in-200 possibility of the UK power grid failing in the next five years.

We explore the threats which could cause such a failure, including cyberattacks similar to the one that crippled the Ukrainian network in December 2015.

The report also outlines the Black Start process of rebooting the electricity network, something which could take 5-7 days to completely restore power. And it examines the catastrophic consequences of a world without electricity. We’d suggest giving it a read – it’s free!

Data Centre Power Players

However, data centre news website Techerati was more interested in whether so-called ‘bit barns’ were prepared for such widespread disruption.

We explain to them why data centres are better equipped than many other industries for a prolonged power outage. Minimising downtime is the prime priority, which is why the principle of redundancy is given such prominence.

Of course, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are key parts of any data centre’s infrastructure, providing emergency backup until the generators kick-in.

From the smallest standalone IT room to multi-megawatt hyperscales, many data centres abide by the tier classification system overseen by the Uptime Institute.

The data centres towards the top end of the spectrum, Tier III and IV, are designed to continue running for at least 72 or 96 hours respectively if there’s an electrical outage.

Data centres also incorporate concepts such as at least N+1 redundancy and ultimate fault tolerance to minimise their downtime.

Our article explores whether other industries, particularly smaller businesses, could benefit from adopting similar tactics.

Powerless To Prevent The Worst?

There’s only so much even Tier IV data centres with backup substantial backup generators can do, however, if a blackout stretches to several days.

In the Blackout report, we question whether large, power-consuming businesses such as data centres should be duty-bound to implement worst-case scenario planning. This could involve structuring operations to minimise unnecessary power consumption during a civil emergency.

Another idea would be data centres minimising their energy use to simply providing their most critical services during a power outage. This would let them continue with a skeleton service, rather than face up to a complete shutdown.