The Business-Technology Weave

Jun 12 2011   11:16AM GMT

From Starbucks to U.S. Airways – Part II

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott


And now for something (not) completely different (old-school Monty Python fans will understand):  


(Please see Pt. I if you haven’t). 


Squarely within the concerns expressed in my prior article regarding my local Starbucks, I read yesterday that U.S. Airways suffered a power loss at a data center.  This loss took their website offline, grounded hundreds of flights nationwide, and consequently stranded thousands of passengers. 


U.S. Airways released the following statement yesterday:

US Airways is experiencing a computer systems outage that has impacted and the airline’s airport computer systems.

Early reports indicate that the systems outage is the result of a power outage near one of the airline’s data centers in Phoenix.  Some airport computer systems are coming back online now and we are working to restore operational order.

We strongly encourage our customers to check their flight status before arriving at the airport by calling US Airways Reservations at 1-800-428-4322.

It’s not completely clear from this statement if the power outage involved utility mains – that is, elements of power outside the scope of their control – or something “near” the data center like its own internal power and associated management.  But – what of reciprocal systems?…  redundant data and process, geographically dispersed, and therefore not on the same substation, within the same power grid, nor same data center? 


I’m frankly surprised that a major airline could go offline like this – and I rather suspect the problem was “local” (that is, located within systems and controls of the airline itself).  However, I honestly don’t know – but the redundancy criticism is certainly valid.  My gosh, if an endeavor like an airline can’t maintain its continuity of business in the face of a mundane local power outage – instead suffering a national impact – I think something is seriously lagging.  Recognize:  Local power at one data center had national impact.


But here’s a lesson for everyone, from HelpDesk staff to senior executive class:


Survey your backup equipment, UPS devices, battery statuses, and configurations.  If you manage people who do those things, survey those people, and get them on it.  Take nothing for granted.



June 12th:  On this day in 1979, Bryan Allen flew a human-powered aircraft over the English Channel, the Gossamer Albatross.  The flight took 2 hours and 49 minutes.


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