Tuesday, 13 September 2016

ING Data Centre Crash Caused by Loud Noise

ING Bank found itself apologising to customers this week after a data centre failure in Bucharest, Romania left them without most online services over the weekend. The good news in an otherwise disturbing situation is that the event could have been much worse. The outage led mostly to inconvenience, due to its occurrence on the weekend. Had it happened during the week, the results could have been much worse.

Numerous news reports say that ING Romania was running a standard fire suppression test at the Bucharest facility on 10th September. The facility's fire suppression system uses an inert gas that is designed to be harmless to equipment. In this case, the gas itself did not cause the problem. The catastrophic shut-down of the facility was a result of a loud noise emitted when the high-pressure gas was released.

One news source says that the gas was under a pressure that was too high for the system. When it was released, it emitted a loud booming noise that sent a shock wave throughout the facility. That shock wave created vibrations strong enough to damage hard drives and servers within the data centre.

Service Down for 10 Hours

Damage to the equipment was severe enough that the centre was down for about 10 hours. During that time, customers were unable to conduct online transactions, communicate with the bank online or conduct transactions at ATMs around Bucharest. Some transactions already in progress when the outage occurred were simply lost. The bank's website was also down for a time.

Bank officials say they brought in an extra 70 staff members to help recover the system and restore data. Although described as ‘exceptional’ and ‘unprecedented’, ING Bank maintains that service interruptions were merely a matter of convenience. They have not said whether all systems are up and running yet however it does not appear, at time of writing this article, that any critical data was lost or compromised.

Unfortunate but Important

ING Bank's misfortunes aside, the fire suppression test and subsequent shut-down are important events for the data centre community. Why? Because it has long been assumed that loud noises creating substantial shock waves could damage data centre equipment, but no one has known for sure because it has never happened before. Now that it has, we have a working example we can use to address what we now know is a possibility.

In the months ahead, we can expect testing and research designed to figure out what happened in Bucharest over the weekend. The more we learn about the incident, the better able we will be to protect data centres from similar events in the future. This is good for the data centre community despite the fact that the outage inconvenienced ING Romania customers.

Making the best use of the information collected on the outage will, of course, depend on ING Bank being willing to be forthcoming with their findings. Hopefully they will, for the good of the entire data centre industry.

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