The architecture of a building can impact the availability of a data center, regardless of infrastructure topology investments. Building architecture dictates constraints in the design of a data center. Seldom do we have a nice, rectangular box, with easement in all six adjacent directions. For urban data centers, this issue is especially apparent. It would surprise some readers, the extent to which a data center property is spread across multiple non-contiguous suites, floors, basements, and rooftops in inner-city buildings. Manhattan is a perfect example.
Urban Data Center Architecture
In Manhattan, we have some of the most famously connected buildings in the US, with 111 8th and 60 Hudson, for example. These buildings are home to numerous data centers. Any one of these data centers, may be comprised of space on several floors (non-adjacent to one another), and in multiple suites separated by hallways. The MEP infrastructure serving these spaces may or may not be on the same floor as any of these computer rooms. If one remembers the size and weight of kit such as generators and chillers, the only pragmatic place to locate such kit is the roof or basements. In fact, it’s not uncommon for generators to be assembled in-place, in basements of buildings like this. Similarly, fuel storage for generators is also naturally in the basements of buildings like this.
The recent damage done by Hurricane Sandy, which flooded much of the Northeastern United States on October 29th, 2012, illustrates quite plainly for us how these architectural constraints can create availability exposures.
Downtime due to Basement Flooding
As reported by Data Center Knowledge, several data center buildings were shut down due to severe flooding, because the water in the basements of these buildings disabled diesel fuel pumps, which in turn fuel the emergency generators. Con Edison lost power to lower Manhattan, which in turn necessitated the data centers to revert to emergency backup power. However, without access to fuel, the generators also failed.
Data centers at 75 Broad and 33 Whitehall, located in the “Zone-A” flood zone incurred outages from flooding to basements. Also, several tenants in 111 8th Avenue reported outages due to network failures. Many other data centers across the region were operating on generator power as Con Ed and PSE&G suffered widespread utility outages.