Major Tokyo Data Centers Fuel Up for Blackouts

Major data centers in Tokyo say they are undamaged and ready to continue operating, even if they lose utility power due to a program of rolling blackouts. Equinix (EQIX) says it has topped off its tanks of diesel fuel to maintain operations even if it loses utility power.

Rich Miller

March 14, 2011

4 Min Read
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Major data centers in Tokyo say they are undamaged ready to continue operating, even if they lose utility power due to a program of rolling blackouts being implemented by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). Some forecasts say the power rationing could continue for weeks or months, placing a premium on access to diesel fuel to maintain services during outages. Some companies are voluntarily powering down non-critical data center operations, including Sony, which is turning off its Final Fantasy online games for at least a week.

"We can confirm that there is no damage or operational impact to our two data centers in Tokyo,” said Steve Smith, President and CEO of Equinix, whose Tokyo data centers provide critical colocation and interconnection services to dozens of firms.

"Our facility is fully operational and services continue to be delivered from it," said Monica Drake of Microsoft Global Foundation Services, which operates a large data center in Tokyo.

NTT Communications said its data center services have been operating without disruption, but reported outages in its Enterprise IP-VPN and e-VLAN services in Tohoku, the region in northeast Japan which has suffered the most significant impacts from the earthquake and tsunami. "NTT Com is making every effort to rapidly restore communication services affected by the earthquake," said Akira Arima, NTT Com’s President and CEO.

Generator Fuel a Key Commodity

In the aftermath of Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake, Japanese utilities have begun rationing electric power to cope with the loss of generating capacity at damaged nuclear plants in northern Japan. Over the weekend (TEPCO) announced plans to implement rolling blackouts to many cities in suburban Tokyo for three to six hours daily, and began implementing the regional blackouts late Monday (Japan time).

Equinix acknowledged that it has "concerns about the power supply from Tokyo Electric Power Company" but was taking steps to ensure its facilities can remain online.

"We have fueled the generators at our Tokyo data centers to their full capacity, which will provide emergency backup power in the event of any power disruption," said Kei Furuta, managing director, Equinix Japan. "We can keep our Tokyo data centers up and running as normal. Our local operations team in Japan and our Asia Pacific Network Operations Center (APNOC) have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to provide services to our customers. They are available 24x7 to our customers to provide the latest information and assistance."

Diesel fuel is likely to become a valuable commodity in Japan should the rolling blackouts persist. Many major data centers arrange for contracts that provide priority access to diesel fuel.

Data Centers Support Government Services

Government agencies are often supportive of efforts to keep data centers online, as communication services are critical in recovery efforts. An example: After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, city officials worked to support diesel deliveries for the Telehouse carrier hotel facility at 25 Broadway after it experienced fuel shortages and generator problems that left its customers offline for more than two days.

Microsoft's Tokyo data center, for example, supports a cloud-based disaster response communications portal running on Windows Azure that is available to governments and nonprofits to use for communication between agencies and with citizens.

"There has been no disruption to our cloud based and hosted services, and we continue to monitor the situation closely," said Charlie McNerney, General Manager of Business Management for GFS. "We are reaching out to our customers and partners to conduct impact assessments, and we are providing those impacted by the earthquake with free incident support to help get their operations back up and running."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano asked Japan’s citizens to cut back their use of electricity as much as possible, citing the loss of about 25 percent of generating capacity due to the crisis at Fukushima, where TEPCO is seeking to prevent meltdowns at several badly damaged reactors.

"I ask all Japanese citizens to save electricity in the most maximum way possible, including large electricity users,” Edano said at a news conference in Tokyo.

That has prompted some companies in Japan to shut down non-critical data center operations. Sony said Sunday that it will temporarily suspend three online multiplayer games to conserve electricity.

"The power companies in Japan have encouraged everyone to cooperate by conserving as much energy as possible as it is feared there will not be enough power supply," Sony Online Entertainment said in a statement. "Based on the current situation, we have decided to shut down the game servers temporarily, and therefore to suspend services of FINAL FANTASY XIV, FINAL FANTASY XI, and PlayOnline temporarily."

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