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How do data centers work "without electricity" and in conditions of constant shelling of the energy system of Ukraine

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26.10.2022
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Currently, the energy system of our country is experiencing a serious crisis caused by constant shelling from Russia. For the vast majority of Ukrainian enterprises, power outages are critical, so technicians make every effort to maintain a stable power supply for the equipment. One of these directions is the work of data centers, which is directly related to us, the hosting provider Cityhost.ua. After all, it is in DC that we host our servers. So, it is also important for you, our customers.

It is worth noting that we use several locations for hosting servers — not only in Ukraine, but also in Europe (Germany, Finland, the Netherlands). Today we will talk specifically about Ukrainian DCs.

We took comments from representatives of the two data centers that host our dedicated servers , DC|COSMONOVA and Volya, to find out how they prepared for the challenges of power outages due to infrastructure attacks and how they are addressing the issues.

But first, let's briefly explain what a data center is, how it works, and why the stable operation of your website directly depends on the voltage in the cables of the server rooms.

Read also: " Factors that affect the cost of hosting and domain registration "

Why uninterrupted operation of data centers is important

A data center (DC) or, as they are also called, a data processing center (DOC) is a building (sometimes a complex of buildings) in which conditions are created to house a large number of servers. Most often, servers of various clients are installed in them - hosting providers, domain name registrars, companies with a developed IT structure, and individual users. But IT giants like Google have their own data centers.

Hosting , renting VPS and dedicated servers, registering domains — all this happens at the expense of servers of various purposes and configurations. For all these services, it is extremely important to be always active 24/7. For example, if the site of a large online store goes down for an hour, it will lead to serious damage to the business and losses. In addition, sites that are not available for a long time may decrease in the positions of Google's search results because the robot crawler cannot access them.

Read also: " How hosting affects the ranking and promotion of the site "

Negative consequences include the reactions of target audiences to interruptions in the work of services and sites. Let us recall at least the excitement of users, which arises because the Facebook messenger did not work for half an hour.

All these troubles can happen for various reasons — DDoS attacks , technical or software failures, line breakdowns, power outages. Taking into account all these factors, specialists of data centers and providers jointly carry out many different measures so that the servers work stably and are always available for customer requests.

The server is an extremely powerful machine with high technical performance, which requires special conditions of placement. Such conditions are provided by data centers (data centers).

Several power channels are connected to the data center — main and backup. In addition to power from the general network, there must be a diesel generator capable of ensuring the operation of the servers during a shutdown of the centralized power supply, which is especially relevant today. Uninterruptible power supply units are used in data centers so that the transition from one power supply option to another is imperceptible. They are able to keep the systems running for 10-20 minutes while the generator is started.

For fast data transfer, wide Internet channels are used in data centers, which can also be used as backup channels. They ensure equally fast loading of sites and programs from anywhere in the world.

During operation, servers get very hot, so the rooms where they are installed require powerful cooling. The climate in data centers is maintained by industrial air conditioning systems designed for specific conditions.

Security systems also play an important role in the operation of data centers. It is about both physical security and fire protection. Strict access control is organized in the premises of data centers, and special automatic fire extinguishing systems are installed.

Not every data center can fully provide the aforementioned conditions, so there is a Tier reliability standard that shows customers what they can expect. There are 4 Tier levels, where the first two mean that the equipment in the event of failure needs to be shut down for repair work. Tier 3 and Tier 4 mean that the equipment works without interruption even in case of repair work. All Cityhost servers are located in data centers of a level not lower than Tier 3, which guarantees high reliability and stable operation of services.

As you can see, keeping the servers up and running is a huge job even in peacetime. In times of war, this task becomes a feat, but data centers are up to the challenge. Let's find out from DC specialists how they do it. We asked how data centers prepared for the worst-case scenarios with power outages, how long the last power outage lasted, how the systems worked, how much fuel is needed to run the generators, and whether it is possible to fully transfer data center operations to generator sets if necessary.

The work of the DC|COSMONOVA data center during the war

The DClCOSMONOVA data center has 4 server rooms where the clients' equipment is located. Each server room has its own powerful generator for uninterrupted operation of the equipment for at least two days in the event of a power failure. Own fuel reserves are stored in accordance with standards in reliable protected places. In case of failure of one of the generators, mutual connections of electrical switches between the server ones are built in such a way that it is possible to connect generators from other server ones.

DC-COSMONOVA server room

In the event of a power outage, the entire load falls on the uninterruptible power supply, which maintains the required current until the generators automatically start and go into operation. After that, the entire load is automatically switched to current from generators.

The power supply and air conditioning systems are monitored 24/7 by engineers remotely controlled by a complex of sensors, as well as by engineers constantly present in the data center. Specialists make regular rounds and have clear regulatory procedures for any possible non-standard situations in order to react as quickly as possible to deviations and fulfill the main goal in the data center - uninterrupted power and air conditioning throughout the facility. The team of the data center does everything to ensure that the work of the customer's equipment is not interrupted for a moment and has all the necessary conditions for operation.

Recently, the maximum outage lasted for 3-4 hours, but in case of that, the data center is ready for longer shutdowns. The systems at that time worked perfectly. Before the war, there were also short-term power outages several times a month, and then everything worked fine.

100 liters of fuel are required for an hour of operation on the generators of the entire data center. Of course, it is possible to potentially work on generators for a very long time, but you must be ready to "feed" them with diesel fuel at the rate of 2400 liters per day. From the point of view of processes, DC is ready for such a scenario. But in general, generators are not designed for continuous operation for a long time. Their task is to temporarily maintain the current until the main one appears, and not to completely replace the power supply.

Given the current circumstances, we continue to work on strengthening the uninterrupted operation of the data center and client equipment, so in addition to upgrading additional systems and power lines, DC|COSMONOVA continues to build alternative fiber optic routes to the data center in order to avoid communication interruptions even in the event of damage to the company's backbone networks .

Yuri Goncharov

Technical director of DC|COSMONOVA

Ensuring uninterrupted operation of Volya DC

The data center is equipped with 4 UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) and a stationary diesel generator with a capacity of 1 megawatt. The generator needs about 150-200 liters of diesel per hour of operation. Every month it undergoes technical maintenance with the start-up and transition of the data center to power from it.

3 tanks are filled with diesel fuel, and an additional supply of fuel is also made, which allows continuous operation from the diesel generator set for 24 hours. In addition, the contractors of the "Volya" DC are ready to refuel the gas station with fuel in the shortest possible time.

In the previous three weeks, the longest disconnection from the power grid was about one and a half days, during which the equipment was running from a diesel generator set. In the event of a long-term outage, full operation of the data center only on DSU is quite possible.

Vyacheslav Golubnychy

Data center technical support service

Volya Company

***

Measures to prevent interruptions in the operation of equipment have always been one of the key tasks of data centers that value their reputation and the trust of customers. After the start of a full-scale invasion, work in this direction only intensified, but did not become something unexpected for data centers. Therefore, they continue to actively provide services even under the threat of attacks, and do everything to ensure that the connection between clients and servers is never interrupted.

Cityhost, in turn, makes efforts to reduce the level of electricity consumption. Economy today is a sign of a responsible attitude and understanding of Ukraine's current problems. We conducted an extraordinary audit of all the technical equipment of the company, invented ways to optimize the operation of the equipment, reducing the amount of electricity consumption. It is worth noting that the optimization in no way affected the level of stability and quality of our services.

We continue to monitor the situation and make every effort to provide services in an uninterrupted mode.

We also remind that customers can move to foreign data centers in the Netherlands, Finland and Germany. You can organize such a move with the help of the technical support service.


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Author: Bohdana Haivoronska

Journalist (since 2003), IT copywriter (since 2013), content marketer at Cityhost.ua. Specializes in articles about technology, creation and promotion of sites.