Thursday, August 11, 2011

11/08/2011: Another 'black eye' for services supporting our 'knowledge economy'

Here's a disturbing story (hat tip to @BriMcS via Twitter) about the trials and tribulations of the Irish 'knowledge economy' arising from the traditional sectors market structure.

I wrote before about the abysmal quality of water supply - a key infrastructure input into 'knowledge economy' both in terms of pharma and biotech sectors, but also in terms of quality of life considerations that impact decisions by highly mobile and highly skilled 'knowledge'-intensive sectors workers to locate in the country.

I also wrote before about the poverty of Irish electricity supply (in terms of low quality and high cost) with ESB (state-owned dominant electricity market player) and Irish Regulator presiding over the generation and supply systems that routinely lead to electricity supply warnings in Trinity College, Dublin (Dublin city centre).

Here is another episode, this time directly impacting our Ireland-based 'knowledge economy' giants - Amazon and Microsoft:
  • The report of a 5-hour long (!) interruption of energy supply to Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud computing services based at Citywest (full report here). let me make 2 comments on this. Firstly, cloud computing services are targeted by the Irish Government for flagship development in Ireland, with hopes that cloud computing clusters can be created here by attracting foreign MNCs and building on their platforms domestic expertise and entrepreneurship. Secondly, the uo to 5 hours disruption was reported originally by the ESB Networks as a 1 hour disruption, which begs a question - does the industrial behemoth have a capacity to even accurately time in real time the extent of disruption to its services. Even a taxi company would be able to tell if their customers couldn't get their services for 1 hour or 5 hours.
  • Additional report (see here) cites another incident whereby on the same day another "knowledge economy" centre experienced "a voltage dip which lasted for less than one second".
The report above also cites Marguerite Sayers, Head of Asset Management at ESB Networks saying (emphasis is mine): “I can certainly confirm that this was an unexpected fault situation, with absolutely no advance warning, which did result in a voltage dip for many customers, in addition to supply loss for approximately 100 customers.” Which makes me wonder - does Irish ESB categorize fault situations into
  1. "Unexpected" as in the ones they cannot do anything about even in theory, and
  2. "Expected" as in the ones that can be prevented?
If so, how can a faul that is expected take place? By failure to prevent that which is preventable?

All of this is academic, of course. The hard fact is that while incidents do occur, there is something inherently incongruous in having an economic development policy that focuses on building 'knowledge economy' while retaining the market structure that cannot even assure basic quality of supply of energy and water to both residential and industrial users.


davork said...

There are at least 6 datacenters within walking distance in Citywest where the amazon and microsoft issues occured...

you would think that ESB networks would be rather more aware of a sudden change in power consumption in an area that has power draw demands 24 x 7 x 365!

richardtol said...

In fact, electricity supply is generally reliable in Ireland. CityWest is one of the most secure areas in the country, as ESB and EirGrid prioritize companies like Amazon over, say, hospitals. But 100% reliability is not possible.

Jack Costello said...

Surely a 'generally reliable' supply is the least we should expect from what must be the best paid group of electricians on the planet?

Niall Dorr said...

The ESB/Airtricity and others are primary suppliers; however datacentres by default do and should have backup generators. This is usually how a data center sells itself within its USPs as well as offering redundancy in data backups. All data centers by default should have contingency plans if the primary source of electric supply suffers an outage.

yoganmahew said...

Any company that is operating a datacentre environment without UPS backup is not serious about its business or its customers.