Delta Air Lines recently experienced what no company big or small wants to encounter: a failure of its data center and a halt to its core business. The small fire in Delta’s enterprise data center destroyed back up power capacity and hundreds of servers needed rebooting. This resulted in a grounding of the company’s entire fleet, cancellation of hundreds of flights and the inconvenience of thousands of passengers.
Company data centers like Delta’s typically have built-in redundancies in power, cooling and networking independent from the primary sources. While there were clearly built-in data center redundancy efforts in place, a single-point of failure remains if all of the data and operations are contained in one single center. The Navy S.E.A.L.s are known to say, “Two is one and one is none” as a reminder that if a piece of equipment is important enough to have, you should have two in case of malfunction, loss or failure. Redundant infrastructure within one data center does not account for the loss of the entire data center. This is a critical issue for modern business yet it is estimated that over half of all small and mid-sized businesses in the U.S. do not have a recovery plan in place should they too experience an outage, data loss, or other catastrophic failure in their data systems and operations. Data is central to doing business today and assuring that your information is secure and provided for in any disaster recovery plan is critical.
It is clear that companies will need to find ways to build and increase their crisis recovery abilities and assure data center resiliency through redundancy. For those businesses that opt for their own data center, this will mean multiple data centers in varying geographic locations. This approach ideally will involve “hot failover mirrors” that allow transfer of operations to another data center in case of a local failure. Other businesses may opt for the redundancies offered by larger scale commercial cloud companies that provide geographic diversity with multiple data centers across the country and even the globe. Regardless of the particular strategy employed, the net result is the need for more and in many cases larger data centers.
Because data centers provide direct benefits to the business community, revenue to local tax coffers and are similar in impact and intensity as an underused office building, many zoning officials are incorporating the use in local codes. However, even when zoning provides specifically for data center development, it is important to understand if the regulating authority also contemplated the need for any necessary utility infrastructure. Last year Loudon County Virginia officials amended zoning regulations to require special permits where previously the zoning allowed for data centers as of right. While new data centers were still a generally welcomed use in the zones where proposed, the new projects meant the necessary transmission lines would be in residential areas. As a result, officials amended the code to give greater scrutiny to data center projects. As more companies seek to meet data capacity and redundancy needs, it will be important to not only understand how local zoning treats data centers, but how additional transmission and communications lines have or have not been accounted for in that zoning and what local, county or state-level approvals are necessary to connect these facilities.