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BCAW Day 2 – Data Centre Outages Still a Concern

The most recent annual “Causes and Impacts of Data Centre Outages” report by the Uptime Institute gives a fascinating snapshot of the industry.  Key findings include:

  • The frequency of data centre outages continues to be a source of concern for both customers and operators:
  • Power issues remain the most common cause of disruption but constitute a declining share of outages; and
  • There were fewer “severe” outages in 2020 than in 2019.

The overall frequency of data centre outages appears largely unchanged, with 76% or organisations reporting some form of outage in the last three years (compared to 74% in the previous report).  As regards publicly-reported outages, there was a slight fall from 163 in 2019 to 119 in 2020.  This may, in part, reflect a reduction in the impact of outages, with only 6% of organisations reporting a “severe” incident in the last three years (compared with 11% in the previous report).

Looking in more detail at the distribution of impacts, the picture over the last few years is somewhat confusing:

I say “confusing” because the median duration, that is the length of a typical outage, has increased considerably over the last few years; but the likelihood of an extended outage has fallen.  For example there was a 16% chance of an outage of greater than 24 hours in 2018, but only an 11% chance in 2020.

Power issues are, once again, the most common cause of data centre outages at 37%; but this is well down on the historical average (since 1994) of 80%.  Within this overall category, failure of UPSs is the single biggest cause.  Software and IT systems errors are now the second largest cause of disruptions at 22%.  Whilst the recent major fire at OVH’s site in Strasbourg attracted much publicity; fires account for only a tiny number of disruptions overall.

Coming on the back of the OVH disruption, this is a further reminder to all of us of the need to manage the risk of a data centre outage; even if our systems are hosted in a top-tier facility.