North American Network Operators Group

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Re: data center space

  • From: Michael.Dillon
  • Date: Tue Apr 25 07:03:44 2006

> > Also, I would say that expecting a terror act to knock
> > out a 65 square mile area is being a bit over pessimistic.
> If any of you have not done so, I would highly recommend reading Bruce
> Schneier's book 'Beyond Fear'. The particular scenario that is being
> described here is what he would call a "movie plot scenario", in that
> while it would make a very good movie, it is not at all likely to
> happen, and is almost impossible to defend against in any sort of a
> reasonable fashion.

About a hundred years ago in a little town on the West Coast,
a natural catastrophe killed 3,000. Six years earlier a different
natural catastrophe killed 8,000 in a small Gulf Coast town.
By these standards the 2986 killed in the biggest terrorist
attack on the USA is not that big. As military planners know,
it is very, very hard to cause largescale damage, even when you
have billions of dollars of equipment and tens of thousands of
well-trained people to do the work. Terrorism is not about large
scale damage, it is about striking fear into large numbers of
people while causing only a small amount of damage.

Advance planning can reduce the damage caused by an event.
In San Francisco, they reinforce the buildings, bridges and
other structures. In Galveston, they tell people to run away
days in advance of a hurricane. To mitigate the damage caused
by a terror attack, you need to help people understand with
their rational minds, that their personal risk is extremely low,
that the damage is limited and contained, and that they can
defeat the terrorists by remaining calm and rational.

During the Katrina incident, a data centre in New Orleans remained
operational and on the air because they had done a lot of
advance planning. They had stocked up supplies that would be
needed including food and water. They approached the situation
calmly and rationally whenever unexpected events occurred like
armed looters entering the building. They did a darn good job
considering their major mistake. For some reason, they didn't
expect the city to be practically wiped out for several months
so they didn't have a live backup site running in another city.
On the other hand, thinking back to pre-Katrina days, what are
the chances that they could have convinced customers to pay
for the existence of a live backup site in another city?

In some ways, Katrina was a movie plot scenario, yet that company
still managed to survive the disaster by combining typical
data center continuity planning along with "survivalist"
style disaster planning.

--Michael Dillon