August 31, 2017
As Hurricane Harvey was preparing to slam Houston and the surrounding areas last Friday, data center operators with facilities in the region staffed up, with the knowledge that the staff may be unable to leave work for an undetermined number of days. As had been feared, Harvey’s landfall, followed by unprecedented, devastating flooding in Houston, resulted in submerged roads, leaving most of them stranded at work.
This Tuesday, five days later, many were finally able to return home; but not all of them still had homes to return to. “As with so many Texans impacted by this disaster, some of our team members either lost their homes entirely or suffered severe damage from flooding,” Edward Henigin, CTO at Data Foundry, said.
The Austin-based data center provider has two facilities in Houston, and the company has been sending extra staff there to support their colleagues in dealing with their new reality.
Data Foundry is also ensuring all its employees have a roof over their heads. “We have secured housing for anyone who lost their home or is unable to access their home, and we are collecting and providing supplies for our team members and other residents who need them,” Henigin said.
Companies including Data Foundry, Equinix, and CyrusOne had the same teams in their data centers from Friday until Tuesday, ensuring the facilities would keep running and providing remote-hands services to customers who were unable to access their systems.
“The team has worked as a cohesive unit, with some team members remaining on-site, unable to access their homes,” CyrusOne CTO Kevin Timmons said. “Other members stayed around the clock to provide coverage for those teammates who had to remain in their homes because of the storm.”
In preparation for the storm, Data Foundry brought additional staff to its Houston data centers Friday, so the staff were able to work in shifts while remaining on-site. The facilities had showers and were stocked with food, cots, video games, and books, Henigin said. Stocking up on sleeping cots and supplies is a customary part of data center operators’ emergency preparedness plans.
The Equinix data center in Houston, a former Verizon facility that was part of the large data center portfolio Equinix recently acquired from the carrier, had six personnel on-site between Friday and Tuesday, when a team arrived to relieve them. “They were away from their families and loved ones during the storm, and their dedication has been heroic,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
While more than 100,000 homes and businesses in the area lost power as a result of the disaster, Houston data centers were largely spared major utility power interruptions. One of CyrusOne’s data centers in the city was switched to on-site generator power. We have received no reports of other providers that had to do that.
Equinix, Data Foundry, Digital Realty Trust, Internap, and Netrality all reported that their Houston data centers had not experienced any service interruptions.
Digital Realty released a statement Tuesday pledging to make a contribution to the hurricane relief efforts, saying it would also match its employees’ contributions; Verizon pledged to donate $10 million to the efforts; and CyrusOne said it was looking for the best ways to provide support.