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!

World Cup is Lame Compared to This Competition

June 18, 2018

So you think World Cup soccer is a big deal? While I’m sure it’s very compelling to watch a bunch of athletes kick a ball around, World Cup misses the boat because it doesn’t include teams putting together their ow Read more…

By Dan Olds

IBM Demonstrates Deep Neural Network Training with Analog Memory Devices

June 18, 2018

From smarter, more personalized apps to seemingly-ubiquitous Google Assistant and Alexa devices, AI adoption is showing no signs of slowing down – and yet, the hardware used for AI is far from perfect. Currently, GPUs Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Banks Boost Infrastructure to Tackle GDPR

As banks become more digital and data-driven, their IT managers are challenged with fast growing data volumes and lines-of-businesses’ (LoBs’) seemingly limitless appetite for analytics. Read more…

Challenges Face Astroinformatics as It Sorts Through the Stars

June 15, 2018

You might have seen one of those YouTube videos: they begin on Earth, slowly zooming out to the Moon, the Solar System, the Milky Way, beyond – and suddenly, you’re looking at trillions of stars. It’s a lot to take Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

U.S Considering Launch of National Quantum Initiative

June 11, 2018

Sometime this month the U.S. House Science Committee will introduce legislation to launch a 10-year National Quantum Initiative, according to a recent report by Read more…

By John Russell

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Exascale USA – Continuing to Move Forward

June 6, 2018

The end of May 2018, saw several important events that continue to advance the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) for the United Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Exascale for the Rest of Us: Exaflops Systems Capable for Industry

June 6, 2018

Enterprise advanced scale computing – or HPC in the enterprise – is an entity unto itself, situated between (and with characteristics of) conventional enter Read more…

By Doug Black

Fracas in Frankfurt: ISC18 Cluster Competition Teams Unveiled

June 6, 2018

The Student Cluster Competition season heats up with the seventh edition of the ISC Student Cluster Competition, slated to begin on June 25th in Frankfurt, Germ Read more…

By Dan Olds

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda 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

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This