"OVH Data Centre Destroyed by Fire"
These were the headlines Wednesday 10 March 2021, as a major conflagration took hold and wiped out SBG2, seriously damaged SBG1 and put SBG3 “at risk”.
As consultants visiting many Data Centres across the world, we are often asked, during the course of our assessments, to comment on the installation, testing regime and operation of the fire detection and suppression systems in place. When we spot something amiss, the response we invariably receive back from the Data Centre provider is “a Data Centre is mostly steel and concrete, what is there to burn? You (PTS) are overstating the issue that is being focused on”.
Here are some of those “over stated” issues we have encountered:
- Environmental sensors used as fire detection systems in plant areas, with no connection to the fire control panel
- No fire detection or suppression system in plant areas
- No fire detection or suppression system in the entire Data Centre facility (no business insurance either as a consequence)
- An incorrectly installed and commissioned fire detection system with a flawed testing regime that essentially renders it inadequate to carry out its function
- Cardboard and other flammable materials left as combustible fuel in data halls
If you’re imagining that these issues only happen in enterprise Data Centres, you’d be wrong. We find them just as likely to be present in large multi-national colocation centres as small public sector facilities. In this regard, size appears to be no indication of competence.
We have no idea, at time of writing, what caused the OVH fire but we do know, that whatever fire detection and suppression system they had in place failed to contain the damage and left the site vulnerable to a significant loss of business, affecting not only OVH but also all the customers who had put their faith in them.
Can customers truly be expected to know if the colocation or cloud facility they are entrusting with their business manages its risk effectively and competently to prevent such outages occurring? Actually, they can, and absolutely should. If one considers the cost of undertaking a suitable facility review/assessment too expensive, then surely the cost of reputational damage and business losses from service failure hasn’t been truly considered as the alternative. We (PTS) have extensive experience in this realm and have guided organisations with small and large budgets through the assessed risks of target facilities, to enable them to make reasoned, informed choices of where to place their business. The worst can happen and it often does.