Thursday, 11 August 2016

Delta Airlines Data Centre Fails – The Reason Why Is Still a Mystery

The second-largest airline carrier in the US is still struggling to regain normal operations after a data centre failure that grounded hundreds of flights and stranded thousands of passengers worldwide. Somewhere around 2.30am EDT on Monday, August 9 Delta staff in Atlanta were unable the access computer networks for some unknown reason. Operations around the country and, eventually, the world also suffered the same fate.

The US-based company, which is part of the SkycapTeam consortium that also includes Air France-KLM, has not offered any real concrete answers about what caused the problem. But, in the days following the outage, they have struggled to get their computer systems back online and all the data synced across their worldwide network. The airline says it is doing everything it can to return service to normal.

A Power Switch Problem

Initial reports suggest that Delta technicians were running a routine test of backup power procedures when a piece of equipment was inadvertently tripped. That failure ostensibly locked airline computers out of access to both Georgia Power and their own reserve backup generators. With no power, the system shut down.

However, another rumour has emerged suggesting a fire might have taken out the airline's main data centre in Atlanta. Some sources say that as technicians were attempting to switch computer networks to a backup generator, a fire broke out, destroying two generators in the process. In either case, Delta's computer networks went down due to a data centre failure related to a lack of power.

As of Wednesday, August 10th 2016, things were still not back to normal. A few thousand of Delta's flights were back on schedule, but airport information boards were not necessarily correct. Information on the company's website pertaining to arrivals and departures could also not be entirely trusted. Delta Airlines continues to investigate what went wrong.

Computer Networks Vulnerable Everywhere

Delta Airlines is sure to take a PR beating as a result of its data centre failure. And although there will be new strategies put in place to prevent future outages, the company's networks were already operating up to standards as far as we know. Their data centre had backup power in place for purposes of redundancy, just as would be expected, but the perfect storm occurred in just the right way to cause a big problem.

The lesson to be learned here is that no network is invulnerable. No matter how much technology we put in place, no matter how much redundancy we include, computer networks will always be at risk of failure. It is something we have to learn to live with. That does not help the thousands of Delta passengers stranded around the world, but it is the reality in which we live. Computer networks are not perfect.

Hopefully, Delta would be more forthcoming in the future as to what caused the failure. Their willingness to share information will help others avoid similar problems in the future.

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