Calamities, Contingencies and the Cloud

By Nicole Hemsoth

March 14, 2011

As the real and figurative dust begins to settle in Japan following the massive earthquake and tsunami, the grim evaluation of damage is just beginning in terms of life, property and increasingly, business.

Today Japanese markets went live and back to work and to some extent, so did some of the country’s largest companies. Honda, Sony and others were forced to shut down for an extended period but otherwise Japan has been trying to push forward, if not with a sense of sad defiance in the face of the mounting tragedies—human, environmental, structural and otherwise.

The assessments extend far beyond Japan’s borders, at least on the human front as millions look to cloud-based platforms to share and receive important news and information from a broad spectrum of worldwide sources.   

As Dr. Jose Luis Vazquez-Poletti discussed this morning, “following the first hints of news about the tragedy in Japan, people around the world turned to the Internet to find different formats for information—not just mass media coverage, but also firsthand impressions left on personal websites, blogs and social media outlets…a combination social networks and the principles of cloud computing became the primary source for information gathering and sharing.”

Indeed, the convergence of cloud computing and the incredible breadth of tools to harness it for massive, real-time communication and collaboration shows the power of ICT developments like cloud-based services to aid during times of national emergency.

This communications side of the cloud story is striking in its scope; families and agencies sharing updates in near real-time, distributed coordination of search and rescue operations across any number of hosted platforms. However, there is another angle of cloud computing that emerges during major crises.

Reliance on clouds as the main artery for communications and even business continuity following mobile phone and related disruptions is advantageous but what if those networks or data storehouses are obliterated or at worst, temporarily knocked out following exhaustion of backup power?

Just as with many other critical elements of infrastructure, a few of Japan’s datacenters have been affected by the tragedy. Rather than being due to direct damage to structures, however, the failures appear to be due to rolling blackouts and extended power outages. While they are not as widespread as one might imagine given the scope and magnitude of the damage, this is nonetheless causing issues for those who rely on cloud-based services in the country.

ZDnet Japan has been maintaining an updated list of affected datacenters with short descriptions of current challenges showing that some datacenters are faring better than others. Overall, despite some serious breakdowns in ICT infrastructure, the country’s clouds have been protected by a variety of power and data backup methods.

According to reports, among the hardest hit in the data market was NTT Communications—one of Japan’s largest providers of data and communication services. On Friday they lost their IP-VPN connection and were closely monitoring the exterior of the building holding one of its datacenters. In a statement issued on Friday the company noted that “due to earthquakes in the Tohoku region NTT has failed in some of our services.” NTT apologized to its customers but claimed that backup power supplies for its other datacenters have extended capabilities.

Announcements from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs have emerged about severed communication networks, including KDDI’s undersea cables.

Despite these and other major ICT infrastructure failures, there are a number of companies reassuring customers that even in the face of power loss their data is still safe.

Earlier this month Amazon Web Services announced the availability of its cloud computing services to the Tokyo area with the launch of a new datacenter. While the exact location of the data storehouse was withheld, in a statement about its new Japanese reach, one of Amazon’s spokespeople behind the move stated that “developers in Japan told me that latency and in-country data storage are of great importance to them.”

It is quite likely that, based on these specific concerns and the fact that they were highlighted in a relatively sparse release, the datacenter is located somewhere in the heart of Tokyo, which suffered a great deal of damage although not as much as other coastal cities touched by the massive tsunami.

According to Amazon, however, the datacenter has emerged unscathed and for all intents and purposes, its business as usual—at least in terms of its cloud offering in the region. Furthermore, as one might imagine, AWS has some exhaustive backup and recovery plans, including stores off-site and off-continent.

On its status page, which shows real-time outage or interruption events by region, Amazon’s services all seem to have the green light. However, it notes that while they do not believe there will be interruption is service, it is a possibility. As the company’s message to Asia-Pacific AWS users states:

 “There are planned Tokyo Electronic outages scheduled over the next few weeks, starting Monday morning (Japan time). We have been re-validating our back-up power capability so that customers have the least interruption possible.”

A number of U.S.-based companies are jumping into the fray to offer assistance to businesses, non-profits and government agencies via cloud-based software.  For instance, yesterday IBM Japan announced that it would be providing free LotusLive services until the end of July to ensure the necessary “means of information sharing and email targeted at local governments and nonprofit organization for supporting browser-based activities.”

Japan’s leading internet provider IIJ has stated that it is providing free access to cloud-based resources from its unaffected datacenter location from a rapidly-deployed server setup in the Kansai area it claims will be unaffected by power outages and rolling blackouts. Although the translation is approximate, the company notes that “traffic information and safety confirmation as well as railways operation are supported in this infrastructure for delivering information as quickly as needed—IIG is doing all it can to to support various server engineers.”

Microsoft had an office in one of the worst affected areas, Sendai. In addition to offering words of concern and condolences, the company announced that it would be providing monetary and software donations to Japan.

According to a report, this assistance includes free incident support for those with damaged facilities and “free temporary software licenses for customers, non-profits and relief agencies.”

Microsoft has also opened a cloud-based disaster recovery portal on its Windows Azure for officials to use for collaboration and communications.

Similar efforts were underway, although on a smaller scale, following New Zealand’s earthquake, which rocked Christchurch and put data backup worries on center stage. 

In fact, now that the tidal wave of shock is turning slowly into recognition of the gravity of the situation, today has sparked a number of conversations around the web highlighting the value of having a contingency  plan and reliable backup and recovery options. These have saved many of the datacenters, both in terms of backup power and datastores, but some companies that had been reliant on on-site systems might not have fared well.

Many of these same backup and recovery-related conversations emerged immediately following the Christchurch earthquake not long ago. ISC Research community manager Ullrich Loeffler predicted that many companies that were displaced after the tragedy were unlikely to reinvest in their own IT infrastructure. He stated that many of the companies that were forced to line up in queues to try to salvage hard drives and other physical information stores would begin considering the cloud option. Still, Loeffler made it clear that firms would turn to the cloud as a precautionary measure, explaining that “companies only tend to turn to cloud-based or hosted solutions when they need to refresh their systems.”

While Loeffler’s statement that the cloud is not a precautionary measure might ring true in the abstract, there were a number of tales of cloud-based backup and recovery solutions being deployed directly as precautionary measures. This was especially the case in Christchurch where businesses were given a wake-up call in the form of an initial, less severe quake that rocked the town—and swayed the confidence of a number of businesses with mission-critical data stores at the heart of their operations.

The New Zealand Herald reported on a number of companies that found that their decision to deploy cloud-based solutions saved their businesses following the destruction of their offices. Software company EMDA, which supplies software for supply chain and manufacturing businesses had just reevaluated its backup and recovery plan to include both on and off-site backups following the first earthquake.

Although the tragedy could have sparked a much more serious data problem, especially if the epicenter had been closer to Tokyo where a number of datacenters and communications hubs are centered, it does serve as a reminder about the value and risks associated with cloud-based business models. Chances are any organization that has decided to put all or some of its data in the cloud, especially public clouds, has granted significant attention to the issue of reliability and backup. Still, for smaller companies this might be a secondary consideration.

It is difficult to focus on this one element of a tragedy that is so broad in scope that it is almost impossible for the mind to process. We can take our cues from the strong decision to move forward with markets on this Monday following such dramatic loss of life and property, however, and look ahead to see how the challenges from this event can help other countries better prepare for disaster on the cloud and communications level.

Just as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has caused a massive look inward for countries reliant on nuclear power, this should also be a living example of considering contingency planning options for data protection and loss prevention. 
 

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

IBM, Nvidia, Stone Ridge Claim Gas & Oil Simulation Record

April 25, 2017

IBM, Nvidia, and Stone Ridge Technology today reported setting the performance record for a “billion cell” oil and gas reservoir simulation. Read more…

By John Russell

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of a new generation of chips designed specifically for deep learning workloads. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Musk’s Latest Startup Eyes Brain-Computer Links

April 21, 2017

Elon Musk, the auto and space entrepreneur and severe critic of artificial intelligence, is forming a new venture that reportedly will seek to develop an interface between the human brain and computers. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization Optimizing Life Sciences Operations and Care Delivery

As patients continually demand a better quality of care and increasingly complex workloads challenge healthcare organizations to innovate, investing in the right technologies is key to ensuring growth and success. Read more…

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Nvidia P100 Shows 1.3-2.3x Speedup Over K80 GPU on Financial Apps

April 20, 2017

When it comes to the true performance of the latest silicon, every end user knows that the best processor is the one that works best for their application. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Adds Global Smarts to StorNext File System

April 20, 2017

Companies that use Quantum’s StorNext platform to store massive amounts of data this week got a glimpse of new storage capabilities that should make it easier to access their data horde from anywhere in the world. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of a new generation of chips designed specifically for deep learning workloads. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Hyperion (IDC) Paints a Bullish Picture of HPC Future

April 20, 2017

Hyperion Research – formerly IDC’s HPC group – yesterday painted a fascinating and complicated portrait of the HPC community’s health and prospects at the HPC User Forum held in Albuquerque, NM. HPC sales are up and growing ($22 billion, all HPC segments, 2016). Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN openlab Explores New CPU/FPGA Processing Solutions

April 14, 2017

Through a CERN openlab project known as the ‘High-Throughput Computing Collaboration,’ researchers are investigating the use of various Intel technologies in data filtering and data acquisition systems. Read more…

By Linda Barney

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Penguin Takes a Run at the Big Cloud Providers

April 12, 2017

HPC specialist Penguin Computing recently re-ran benchmarks from a study of its larger brethren and says the results show its ‘public cloud’ – Penguin on Demand (POD) – is among the leaders in cost and performance. Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference phase of neural networks (NN). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This