India, one of the hottest economies in the world, became a victim to a massive power outage last week, effecting 620 million people. That’s the equivalent of the populations of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. And, all of Central America, too. Throw in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. (Still not enough? Really?) Anyway, a lot of people.
Speculation as to the direct cause of the electrical grid flat line still stirs. While not the typical outage we reference, this two-day power outage is the perfect example of just how many critical industries can be affected by an outage. Hospitals in the dark, trains stopped, miners below ground and businesses shuttered across the region.
While some were lucky to be located in the western and southern parts of the country where the outage did not reach, others were prepared with backup generators that allowed operations to continue. Microsoft, Dell and Infosys operations in India were unaffected. Lucky for them!
An outage like this is not dissimilar to a cloud services outage. Many businesses in many places suddenly thrown into the dark, at least as far as IT operations go and the critical applications they support. Even on the scale of individual data centers, lives could be on the line if a 9-1-1 dispatch fails. If a major retailer’s online site is suddenly shuttered customers may go to shop elsewhere.
For right now, the consequences of this outage in India are not clearly quantified. In what ways do you think businesses and the Indian government were affected by this outage and what short and long-term affects do you think will plan into the final evaluation of this outage’s cost? Please do share your thoughts in the comments section.
We’ve taken some of the coverage of this outage and included below:
From PC Advisor: India’s Massive Blackout Tests Outsourcing Providers
While the southern city of Bangalore remains the unofficial capital of India’s IT outsourcing industry, most major providers have operations in the northern metropolis of Delhi, and nearby Noida is home to the Indian headquarters of HCL Technologies and CSC as well as a major IBM Global Services data center.
From Bloomberg: Worst India Outage Highlights 60 Years of Missed Targets
India’s worst-ever power crisis is the legacy of 60 years of missed investment targets and on current projections fixing the nation’s electricity supply is still decades away.
The network in Asia’s third-largest economy loses 27 percent of the power it carries through dissipation from wires and theft, while peak supply falls short of demand by an average of 9 percent, according to India’s Central Electricity Authority. Some 300 million people, or one in every four, remain without links to the grid and the number will still be about 150 million by 2030, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
From ChannelBiz: Technology Companies Claim They’re Unaffected by Indian Power Outage
Despite the huge power outages across most of Northern India, technology companies operating in the country have said that it is business as usual. However, resellers have hinted that all may not be well. The power outages are said to have affected 600 million people, as well as shutting down rail networks, lifts and electricity sources.
From CNN: India Hit by Second, Even Larger Power Outage
India suffered its second huge, crippling power failure in two days Tuesday, depriving as much as half of the vast and populous country, or up to 600 million people, of electricity and disrupting transport networks. The first power grid collapse, on Monday, was the country’s worst blackout in a decade. It affected seven states in northern India that are home to more than 350 million people.
Uptime for Public Saftety Answering Point (PSAP) applications is critical for a multitude of reasons. Downtime causes slower emergency response times, impacts the ability of computer systems to capture and disseminate vital information, jeopardizes the safety of first responders when location history and fire inspection data is not available, harms public perception and reputation of your department, and even opens the department up to potential lawsuits.
Every one of those reasons is a great one to protect your PSAP applications from downtime, especially if you are already considering a technology upgrade for legacy software or are about to publish an RFP for updating your PSAP operations.
There is a better reason, though, for making sure your 9-1-1 system is on 24/7/365.
Odds are, you live in the same community in which you work. Your family and your closest friends are among the people you are charged to protect. You want the quickest response possible from emergency responders who have the best? information and technology behind them.
Uptime for your PSAP applications means peace of mind for you that your family and your neighbors are protected around the clock.
Stratus’ newest ebook details different strategies to improve the availability of mission-critical Public Safety applications and minimize the possibility of disruptions caused by server failure. It describes the advantages and disadvantages of dedicated servers, cluster technology, virtualization, high availability and fault-tolerance. Download it now to learn why 99% system uptime is not good enough for PSAP applications, what technologies can increase system uptime, and what technologies best fit for your specific environment.
Anyone in the public safety sector will tell you that the key to a safe neighborhood and a successful first-response system is teamwork. Everyone is essential. For example, even on one small car fire, the person who calls 9-1-1; the dispatch operator who answers the phone and sends the proper emergency personnel; the fire engine driver who navigates the truck safely through crowded streets; the firefighters who extinguish the blaze; the policemen who keep onlookers at a safe distance; the emergency medical technicians and paramedics who triage patients and get them to the hospital; and then the nurses , doctors and technicians in the hospital that treat victims, are all critical to keeping the public safe.
The same is true of the equipment. Every piece of the line is essential. The phone lines connect the 9-1-1 caller to the dispatcher and then the dispatcher to the fire station. All of the firefighters gear must work, along with the truck, the hydrant, and the hoses. The ambulance crew, similarly, must be fully-equipped and transportable. There is little room for error when lives and property are at stake.
About that equipment. First responder organizations rely on top-of-the-line tools. Have you ever seen a firefighter haul out a green garden hose, struggling to untangle the kinks, in an effort to put out a fire? Have you ever seen a policeman take control of a robbery situation using a squirt gun? Have you ever seen a lifeguard swim to a victim and instead of tossing them a buoy, fitted them with floaties? No, and you won’t. Ever.
In public safety, there is no substituting the right tools to get the job done. Every piece is essential, and it must work exactly as designed, every single time.
Or, in the case of the server that supports the public safety applications, every single second.
St. Charles County Department of Dispatch and Alarm is a great example of a department that looked beyond the fire trucks, police cars and ambulances to find vulnerabilities that could possibly hurt public safety performance and put their citizens in danger. They implemented a highly reliable computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system built on Stratus® ftServer® systems and TriTech Software Systems’ VisiCAD™ software to ensure uninterrupted performance of their dispatch software. 40,000 service calls come through the dispatch a year, and every single one could be life-saving. TriTech’s VisiCAD software is flexible enough to service their 16 ambulances and 34 fire stations, encompassing a total of 120 mobile units. VisiCAD is dymanic enough to locate the closest response team to the accident, while monitoring backup vehicles should they be needed.
The ftServers running the Computer Aided Dispatch system, as well as storing all of the electronic information of the calls, ensure the systems have unparalleled uptime. St. Charles County IT Manager Travis Hill said they have been running their original ftserver system for more than nine years without any server downtime. That means nice years of proactive protection for the citizens of St. Charles County.
To find out more about why St. Charles County specifically chose VisiCAD software on ftServers, click here to read the case study.
Saturday’s 911-system outage in the District of Columia highlights the necessity for fault tolerant systems running mission-critical applications. Due to a PEPCO power outage to the call site on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, citizens could not reach EMS personnel from 1:53 to 2:16 p.m. Although traditional and social media channels did their best to get the word out about alternate numbers, all 617,996 citizens of the District were put at risk. Perhaps nothing is more critical to a city than public safety systems like EMS, Fire and Police response.
@AriAnkhNeferet from Twitter said it best, “Someone please explain to me how it’s possible that 911 is experiencing a power outage?! Come on DC. we have to do better.”
She is right – the most mission critical systems and applications shouldn’t be subject to outages, power or otherwise. Backup systems, fault tolerant servers, and disaster recovery solutions are all possible ways to make your EMS system safer for the community. Servers wired for two distinct power sources that come from separate power grids, like our ftServers, are an easy way to guard against power outages. Live data replication and split-site capabilities, two features of our Avance high availability software, are two other ways to ensure your systems are protected.
Besides power failures, server crashes, memory failures, disk drive failures and a countless number of other technical problems can crash servers much more often. Saturday’s power outage demonstrates what could happen if a public safety system goes down for any number of reasons, and reinforces that steps need to be taken to protect systems from more normal/frequent occurrences.
When lives are at stake, you cannot be too careful. However, @AriAnkhNeferet’s tweet shows that something else is at stake: reputation. What happens when if public loses trust in the EMS system to respond? A large Metro can get 30,000 9-1-1 calls per day. That would mean the 20+ minute outage could have affected 400+ 9-1-1 calls, leaving citizens stranded and the city’s first line of defense helpless to respond.
If you run life-saving systems, it might be best to run through some worst-case scenarios on your existing architecture. What happens when a power failure happens in your call center? What happens when a server has a hardware failure? What is your disaster recovery plan in the case of an earthquake, fire, or flood? Are there dedicated resources available 24-hours in the case of a failure?
To learn how Stratus can help you with these and other public safety technology issues, click here to download more information.