wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Local

Posted at 10:21 AM ET, 08/09/2012

Severe weather and internet outages: vulnerability in the clouds?

Slashdot poses an interesting question: Could Extreme Weather Take Down the Internet?

Of interest to the D.C. region, Slashdot speculates internet infrastructure hosted in Northern Virginia - home of massive “cloud” data centers - is particularly vulnerable due to hurricanes that affect the area from time to time. If a huge storm were to ambush any area, it writes:

The most detrimental hit may be in Virginia. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has one of their major centers in Northern Virginia. Rackspace—probably its closest competitor—has two data centers in Virginia [in Herndon and Ashburn], as well. And Virginia isn’t a stranger to natural disasters. Between 1851 and 2009, 12 hurricanes hit the state of Virginia.

It’s not just hurricanes that pose a risk, it’s severe thunderstorms too (not to mention snow, ice and solar storms).

The June 29 derecho produced 60-80 mph winds in the area, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands customers. Amazon Web Services were directly impacted said Roger Kay of Forbes, in his piece Power outage highlights infrastructure vulnerability:

One of the consequences of this most recent storm complex was the loss of cloud computing services, mostly Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which affected high-visibility firms Netflix, Instagram, and Pinterest, among others.

For people throughout the land blithely uploading photos to Instagram, downloading flicks from Netflix, or pinning their interests on Pinterest, the disruption came as an unwelcome reminder that the illusory curtain of our virtual world can be ripped away at any moment.

The Slashdot and Forbes pieces mention Amazon Web Services , Rackspace and other firms have security measures in place such as back-up power and/or redundant servers in other locations. But apparently, something went wrong at Amazon in the wake of the derecho.

The Slashdot piece concludes by stressing the importance of internet infrastructure security measures given projections for increasing hurricane intensity:

The cloud is a convenient, cost-effective, and in some ways incredible network, but with thousands of businesses and organizations relying on the cloud to store data the need to have exceptional security is standard. With the potential for hurricanes to increase in strength over the coming years, the effects of a hurricane hitting a cloud center could be substantial.

(Hat tip to Jesse Ferrell of AccuWeather for directing me to the Slashdot and Forbes pieces...)

By  |  10:21 AM ET, 08/09/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company