I have a hobby. I like astronomy. I have a little telescope that I use to check comets, moons and planets. I am also a data center professional, movie fan and amateur writer. Recently, those seemingly disparate interests converged into a kind of “out there” idea.
You may have heard of the new movie “2012”; where the world comes to an end? I was thinking about that movie, solar astronomy and data centers the other day and was able to connect the dots. I wrote an article on the subject and shared it with a couple of peers. After 10 people read the article I was pretty sure that I had completely saturated my target audience.
The good people over at TechTarget Search Data Center thought maybe a few more people might want to read what I had to say and were good enough to publish the article in today’s newsletter.
I would love to know what other data center professionals think about the article. And, I think it would be really terrific if a few of you would kindly Digg it.
Check it out at http://preview.tinyurl.com/ygbwxcc
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Comment by Gregory Goode on December 17, 2009 at 5:20

I read the article and have to say it’s an interesting spin on space weather. I too am a astronomy buff. As you probably know, space weather and our knowledge of it is a modern manifestation when it comes to its effect on human endeavors. Before we humans started to use any form of electricity, the most that any society actually observed from this weather was the aurora lights and they didn’t know what caused it.

Until the advent of rocketry science and the ability to carry instruments beyond our atmosphere, not much was known about the interstellar environment, especially that the Sun created a wind of highly charged particles along with other events such as Coronal Mass Ejection which affects the Earths magnetosphere. The disruption that can now occur to modern societies, as we have become more reliant upon electricity and the infrastructure that distributes, is significant. The effects are not only felt on Earth, but also by the satellites that now orbit our planet en masse and just as importantly the astronauts on the International Space Station or in other space vehicles.

As to the effect it has on a data centre, this can only be described as indirect. The lose of the electricity grid due to geomagnetically induced currents that overload the grid would be by far the most probable cause for a data centre to suffer, but then some of the power train within the centre may fail which could severely affect the ability of even a standby generator to deliver an alternative power source.

Maybe the TIA942, which is becoming dated, should dedicate a section to space weather for data centres in latitudes which could suffer from such an effect and the safe guards against it as indicated in the article?

If your in the southern latitudes (such as I am, Sydney Australia to be precise), there isn’t much of a worry. There isn’t much landmass in the lower latitudes with significant utility infrastructure that would feel the affect of such an event and thus there aren’t any data centres in such a zone of influence. It would seem to be a possible northern hemisphere data centre risk for the time being.
Comment by Ken Carroll on November 4, 2009 at 8:16
Hi Eric,

Really liked the article. Very thought provoking indeed. If such a geomagnetic storm were to happen, and like you said its only a matter of time till it does, then the world will indeed be a very different place afterwards.

I know its not something we have considered and in our current economic climate I can't see the business I work for planning to invest in disaster planning for this specifically.

Would be interested to see if any data centers have actually prepared a plan to deal with such solar storm event as the one described in your excellent article Eric.

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