IBM crash highlights cloud risks - Internet NZ

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Cloud services provided by companies like IBM come with upsides and downsides, according to Internet NZ. Photo / AP
Cloud services provided by companies like IBM come with upsides and downsides, according to Internet NZ. Photo / AP

A two-day outage to IBM's $80 million data centre in Auckland this week highlights the "rare" risks involved with being based in the cloud, says Internet New Zealand.

Businesses and schools reliant on the data centre were left stranded between Monday 3am and Wednesday 10am after a fault at the state-of-the-art facility in Highbrook, South Auckland.

One east Auckland school was unable to access its internal management system in the same week as it hosted a visit from the Education Review Office (ERO).

Internet NZ did not want to comment on particular providers, including IBM, but said the outage was an example of what could go wrong with cloud computing.

"Cloud services come with upsides and downsides," said spokesperson Campbell Gardiner.

"The benefit of the cloud is you can use it from anywhere but the downside is when it becomes unavailable, which is what's happened here."

Gardiner said businesses shouldn't expect the cloud to be fail-safe.

"These things don't happen often but they do happen. It's not a massive risk, it happens rarely."

The key lesson to be learned was that businesses definitely need to consider having backups and alternative systems, he said.

"You could go with two providers if you can afford that or you could back up important information in-house."

Meanwhile, those businesses affected had mixed feelings about the fault.

Blair Glubb, head of Localist.co.nz, said he was surprised to find out from the incident that IBM did not have a backup data centre.

"I think it'd be safe to say a two-to-three day outage dents your confidence," he said.

"All businesses expect there to be outages sometimes. However, we'll have discussions with IBM to see what they will do to avoid this happening again."

Glubb said Localist would be looking at some sort of financial redress for the inconvenience.

"I think everybody expects outages at some points but this was a very expensive outage."

IT company Maclean, also hit by the fault, said all companies should have a "disaster recovery facility" in expectation of these sorts of events.

"We're not at liberty to discuss the IBM outage, other than to say that we continue to have absolute faith in the IBM Datacentre, and that this is a great reminder that even the best fail sometimes," said chief executive Chris Maclean.

Arrow International boss Mark Hopwood said the outage had been an issue for the company but one that was manageable.

"It left us with some challenges around our IT but we were able to keep operating because we had contingency plans in place."

Hopwood would not say whether Arrow would be seeking compensation from IBM for any financial losses.

"We've got agreements with IBM around the support they give us and that's all commercially sensitive."

IBM has not disclosed to NZ Herald Online what caused the outage or what it would do to prevent future occurrences.

It opened the 5200 square metre data centre in May 2011, allowing companies to store and access digital information there, removing the need for them to own and maintain computer servers.

The building contains a 1500 square metre raised floor, able to hold up to 720 server racks and is kept at an even temperature by 1.4 kilometres of air conditioning pipes.

The server room hooked up to four electricity generators, capable of producing enough juice to power 266 homes.

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