Lightning Strikes Amazon, Microsoft Cloud Services

Lightning struck twice over the weekend, hitting separate cloud data centers run by Amazon and Microsoft in Dublin, Ireland.

The lightning caused a power outage at one of Amazon's "availability zones," affecting the company's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service in Europe. Amazon said that the event took place at 10:41 a.m. PDT on Aug. 7. The lightning sparked an explosion and fire that affected backup power systems. "The transient electric deviation caused by the explosion was large enough that it propagated to a portion of the phase control system that synchronizes the backup generator plant, disabling some of them," the Amazon team wrote just after 3 p.m. PDT. "Power sources must be phase-synchronized before they can be brought online to load."  That required manual synchronization, the company said.

Later on Aug. 8, Amazon had completed copying data from affected snapshots on its EC2 platform in Dublin, allowing customers to run a recovery tool. The team was still busy "restoring connectivity to affected Single-AZ database instances" for its Amazon Relational Database Service in Ireland, according to the health dashboard.

Meanwhile, Microsoft wrote on Twitter on Aug. 7 that a "Europe data center power issue affects access to BPOS," referring customers to their private service health dashboards for updates. That this power outage was caused by the same lightning strikes in Dublin that affected Amazon's data center was explained in a Data Center Knowledge story. Microsoft referred customers to private dashboards used by Business Productivity Online Service customers for further information. The publicly accessible Microsoft online service notifications page described nothing about the Dublin data center problems.

Microsoft restored services somewhat quickly after the lightning strike in Dublin, possibly within the day on Sunday. The last Twitter post about the Dublin BPOS service outage stated that "BPOS services are back online for EMEA customers."

Microsoft's press release (PDF) on the Dublin facility describes it as "the largest data center outside the United States." It was opened in July 2009 and uses natural cooling except for "a few days per year." The data center uses half the power of comparable facilities according to the press release.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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