CSPs, Enterprise, Content

Hurricane Florence: Amazon, Google, Microsoft Cloud Data Centers In Storm’s Path?

As Hurricane Florence approaches the U.S. east coast with potential Category 5 winds and drenching rain, small and midsize MSPs in the region are backing up customer data to public and private cloud data centers.

Smart move, considering on-premises infrastructure could get drenched or destroyed in the looming storm.

Still, cloud data centers could also get swept up in the storm -- at least peripherally. The reason: Quite a few data centers sit in the storm's potential path across South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

Among the major companies that have data centers in the area:

  • Apple has created a data center corridor in North Carolina that has attracted other companies and bolstered the economy in such counties as Rutherford, Cleveland and Caldwell. Source: The News and Observer.
  • Amazon.com spent $375 million to build North Carolina's first large-scale wind farm. Source: Charlotte Stories. Moreover, Amazon Web Services has six availability zones in Virginia. Source: AWS.
  • Facebook has at least two data centers -- each spanning  more than 300,000 square feet -- in Forest City, North Carolina. Source: Data Center Knowledge.
  • Google Cloud has invested more than $1.2 billion in a Caldwell County, North Carolina data center; it's located in the town of Lenoir. Source: Google. Moreover, the company has multiple data centers in South Carolina and Virginia. Source: Google.
  • IBM has a federal cloud data center in Ashburn, Virginia; a traditional data center, cloud region and network point of presence in Ashburn; and a data center and network point of presence in Raleigh, N.C. Source: IBM.
  • Microsoft has at least two Azure regional data centers in Virginia; along with government and department of defense data center operations in that state. Source: Microsoft.

Most of the data centers are located inland -- far away from the anticipated coastal flooding and brunt of the storm. Moreover, public cloud data centers are generally built to withstand fierce storms. Their designs tout redundant power, diesel generators and other safeguards to keep on-demand IT humming along.

Facebook's Forest City data centers, for instance, feature 16 diesel backup generators. Two generators are dedicated to keeping components of the cooling system online, with the remainder protecting IT loads, according to Data Center Knowledge.

Hurricane Florence: Cloud Data Centers Safe and Sound?

That sounds likely a hardened setup. But CSPs can't let their guard down, considering the potential scale of Hurricane Florence. When the storm makes landfall sometime on Thursday, September 13, it could be the strongest hurricane to hit North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and/or Maryland in the past 60-plus years.

Even towns several hours inland could face flooding -- especially if the storm "stalls" over some North Carolina.

"If the models are correct, this will be only the second Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina since records have been kept," notes Chris Michalec, president and founder of Parkway Tech, an MSP in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that serves law firms.

Parkway’s Chris Michalec
Parkway's Chris Michalec.

Parkway Tech's Winston-Salem location is several hours inland from the U.S. east coast. "But this monster storm is expected to bring us high winds and the potential for 16 inches of rain as it stalls over us," Michalec notes. "Having been through Hurricane Floyd that brought epic flooding to North Carolina in 1999, I’m probably a bit more wary than most when it comes to flooding."

Parkway Tech has taken numerous steps to safeguard customer data ahead of the storm. (We'll share more details soon.)

As for the big public cloud and data center providers, they're counting on the storm to weaken considerably -- losing hurricane force long before moving inland and reaching critical CSP infrastructure. No doubt, the data centers were purposely built in-land, far away from potetial costal harm. We'll see if that forward thinking  pays off when Florence arrives on Thursday.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.