Hong Kong earthquake: How safe are vendors' data centers?
By Carol Ko 08-Dec-2010
A mild earthquake of a magnitude 2.8 on the Richter scale occurred near Hong Kong in Shenzhen Deep Bay on Nov 19. One hundred Hong Kong citizens reported to have felt the earthquake. No building or facility was reported to have suffered damage.
Cloud computing service providers that set their sights on the Asia Pacific market have been aggressively extending their data center footprint in Hong Kong in recent months. These include Verizon Business, Equinix and China Telecom. These companies chose to set up data centers in Hong Kong not just for its strategic location, business-friendly environment and low tax rates, but also because the city has been seen as earthquake-proof.
The Deep Bay earthquake was a wake up call to many in the local community. Was it a wake up call to the IT community as well? The key concern is, can cloud service providers guarantee the safety of their cloud facilities in the event of another mild earthquake in Hong Kong?
By means of "preparedness," this article does not just refer to the readiness of public relations or corporate communications departments in responding to media enquiries, but also the structural safety of their data centers. The physical safety of data centers does not just concern the CIOs, but also the CEOs, the CFOs, an increasing pool of other business users, the legal and compliance teams, as well as the insurance companies that underwrite the safety of their clients' corporate data.
Below is a quick safety check on Hong Kong data center facilities. Beginning from Nov 22, Asia Cloud Forum has asked more than 14 cloud service providers about their data center safety. The questions asked whether their data center facilities in Hong Kong can withstand mild earth tremors, and the number of data centers they have in Hong Kong. Unless otherwise stated, all vendor replies below were their full and complete responses:
Quick links: China Telecom | EMC | Equinix | Fujitsu | Hitachi Data Systems | HP | IBM | Microsoft | Novell | NTT Com | PCCW Solutions | Rackspace | Verizon Business | Wharf T&T
[Editor's note: In September 2010, China Telecom launched an “Internet data center” in Hong Kong, covering 27,000 sq ft space. According to China Telecom in a media statement, "All stored data is protected regardless of data center outage, whether through human error, equipment failure, or natural disaster."]
EMC: "EMC was unavailable for an official reply as 'the company does not have data centers in Hong Kong.'"
-- iPROgilvy, EMC's PR agency in Hong Kong
-- Lewis PR, Equinix's PR agency in Hong Kong
[Editor's note: In August 2010, Equinix announced to build a second data center in Hong Kong with a total capacity for more than 1,450 cabinet equivalents, targeted for opening in the third quarter of 2010.]
Fujitsu: (excerpt) "Hong Kong iTech Tower Data Centre is our Tier-4 data center in Tsuen Wan. The building with a total floor area over 11,150 sqm is purposely designed to provide data center facilities to meet the most demanding specifications and distinctive requirements for a number of international financial institutes and telecommunications service carriers. The total number [of data centers in Hong Kong] cannot be disclosed due to company policy."
-- James Pang, general manager, sales department, information system & services division, Fujitsu Hong Kong
Hitachi Data Systems: (excerpt) "Disaster recovery is an important aspect to consider when building a data center as it is essential to protect valuable data from disasters such as earthquakes, fire, and power outages. A proper disaster recovery plan can help you to resume business as soon as possible. There are a few things you should consider when developing a disaster recovery plan: 1) Determine two key metrics: Recovery time objective and Recovery point objective; 2) Synchronous replication; 3) Asynchronous replication." HDS has one data center in Hong Kong.
-- Calvin Wong, storage solutions consultant, Hong Kong and Macau, Hitachi Data Systems
Microsoft: (excerpt) "With regard to natural disasters, Hong Kong is relatively a secure place. Based on the information from the Hong Kong Observatory, most of the earthquake epicenters that caused felt tremors in Hong Kong were situated outside the territory in areas near Taiwan, the northern part of the South China Sea, Heyuan and Yangjiang of Guangdong, the border between Guangdong and Fujian, Beibu Wan and the Philippines etc. Since 1979, there were just six locally felt tremors with epicenters located in Hong Kong, at Maipo (once in 1983) and over the sea east of Lantau Island (twice in 1982 and three times in 1995 respectively). All these tremors were of Intensity below V(5). Therefore, Hong Kong is chosen as a place to host one of the Microsoft’s supporting data centers, with Singapore as the primary data center in this region."
-- Joelle Woo, director, business and marketing organization, Microsoft Hong Kong
Novell: "Novell was unavailable to respond as they had not built any data center in Hong Kong. Novell has data centers in Australia."
-- Ogilvy, Novell's PR agency in Hong Kong
NTT Com: "In Hong Kong, our fully redundant NTT Communications Hong Kong Data Centre is built with Tier III+ infrastructure that provides highly available data center services and ensures no single point of failure. Its multi-source and multi-path designs have profound impact on the provision of highly stable and ongoing business environment for our customers. The mild earthquake of 2.8-magnitude occurred in November 2010 did not bring any implications to our operations."
-- Marketing Department, NTT Com Asia
PCCW Solutions: "Thank you for your email [...] about whether the buildings in Hong Kong can withstand earthquakes. I believe the landlords will be in a better place to answer that question. Our data centers spread throughout the territories and many of them are located in designated premises to meet our customers’ needs. For example, one of them is located in Sun Hung Kai Logistics Center in Fo Tan, New Territories."
-- Anita Choi, group communications, PCCW
Verizon Business: (excerpt) "Verizon data centers in Hong Kong are designed with diversity and high resiliency on all critical network and IT systems used by Verizon. The Hong Kong data centers also host network equipment that allow customers to take advantage of a Verizon network architecture called 'meshing' throughout the region. A mesh network provides additional network paths for rerouting communications traffic in the event of a cable break or other network disruption. This is important because submarine or terrestrial cables used by communications providers in the Asia Pacific region can be damaged during major earthquakes and typhoons, and communications traffic can be impacted. However, by using the Verizon mesh network, Verizon customer voice and data traffic is automatically rerouted on various available network paths, and all Verizon restorable customer traffic simply moves from one network route to another to be delivered with no service interruptions." Verizon Business has two data centers in Hong Kong.
-- Linda Laughlin, director-media relations, Verizon
Wharf T&T: "Wharf T&T's data centers in Hong Kong can withstand earthquakes of up to intensity 7 as all modern buildings in Hong Kong are built to withstand an earthquake of up to intensity 7. The recent studies indicate that the mean time between quakes in Hong Kong of up to intensity 5 is 15 to 20 years, and intensity 7 is 350 to 400 years. There is no prediction of an earthquake of intensity 8 or above. We have three data centers in Hong Kong."
-- Norris Hickerson, vice president of COL