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Historic Floods of 2013

When I left DataHive on June 20 to go home, the weather was rainy but I did not anticipate the severity of what was to come in the next 12 to 24 hours. I suppose nobody did.

Less than three hours after I’d left the downtown core, I got a call from friends who live in Bowness asking if they could stay with us for a day or so as they were being evacuated. That was my first clue that things were going to get hairy.

By the time I turned on the morning news on Friday at 6AM, it was clear we were going to be in for big trouble. All transit into the core was suspended, and Mayor Nenshi was requesting that everybody stay at home. A mere 6 hours later, downtown was being evacuated. Ultimately, approximately 100,000 residents and the entire core were being moved out of the way of record high waters. It was alarming to watch the devastating effects of the flood as they unfolded live on TV.

I was constantly monitoring our systems, knowing that if the water reached our building and/or the City of Calgary elected to cut the power to our part of the city (as they were doing throughout the flood zone), we’d have to think and act very quickly. The network was holding steady. Our providers were keeping the traffic flowing, which didn’t really surprise me. As long as we were able to maintain power to our routers, I was fairly certain that the internet would work as it was designed to. Traffic would be able to find at least one workable route.

Power was the real concern. We have the UPS in place, and we have 72 hours of fuel for the generator, meaning the immediate impact of the grid being cut would be zero. My concern was with what would happen after 72 hours or if the flood waters reached the room in which the generator is kept. The authorities certainly were not going to let a loaded fuel truck (or any traffic for that matter) into the red zone. If they cut the power on Friday afternoon, we’d be down by Monday afternoon. Best case scenario was to orchestrate an organized and planned shutdown of the data centre and then wait it out as the disaster was dealt with.

The logical thing to do was to contact our clients and let them know that – as of that moment – DataHive was not being effected. We said we’d keep them advised as the situation changed, and that we had a plan in place to deal with any eventuality. And then…


The water kept coming. The Bow River rose to 3 or 4 times its usual flow, but 840 7th Avenue SW was a little oasis in the middle of an unprecedented natural disaster. We didn’t lose grid power for even a second. The generator did not fire up.

On Saturday, I was able to ride my bike across the Louise Bridge and get into our building to prepare a ¼ rack for a new client who had been flooded out of their existing location. Needless to say, they were pretty impressed that DataHive was able to help them out, given the state of emergency that the rest of downtown was in.

The river didn’t crest until sometime late Sunday, so we weren’t out of the woods yet, but things were looking good for our data centre. Monday morning came, and all staff were able to make their way downtown and put in a full days work. Much of the downtown core would not be so fortunate. Most businesses were closed until at least Wednesday, many had no choice but to stay closed for the entire week, and places like the library are still closed as far as I know.

I can’t really explain how we got so lucky. One short block to the north of us (closer to the river), utility power was cut. A few blocks to the south, power was cut. East into downtown…cut.

In a way, it doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that we now know that DataHive is situated in a part of downtown Calgary that is proven to be extremely reliable, even in the face of a multi-billion dollar natural disaster that resulted in many data centres going off-line.

Here’s hoping that our clients and friends all made it through relatively unscathed, and that we never see something like this again. I can confidently speak for everybody at DataHive when I say “we’re very grateful”.

- Iain

Fun Facts About Big Data

Let’s start the week off with something light-hearted, but still informational. I was kind of amazed by some of these facts when I read them…I mean, the digital realm is such a part of our everyday life. We just use without really thinking about what the results are behind the scenes.

Let’s go with 8 factoids, because 8 is my lucky number.

1) Every hour of every day of every week of every month, the internet generates enough data traffic to fill 7 million DVDs. If you laid them out end-to-end, they’d be 95 times longer than Mount Everest is tall. That’s 840,560 metres.

2) If wanted to store the current global storage capacity (about 300 exabytes) on a bunch of CDs, you’d need a stack of them so tall it would reach 80,000 km beyond the moon.

3) 250 billion e-mail messages are sent each day. About 80% of them are spam. About 60% of those are addressed to me.

4) The combined square footage of the world’s half-a-million data centres would cover about 6000 soccer pitches.

5) 75% of digital information is generated by individuals, not companies. Facebook posts, Tweets, blog posts, pictures, music…what ISN’T digital these days?

6) There are about the same number of bits of information in Earth’s digital universe as there are stars in our actual universe.

7) There are over 35 billion pieces of content shared by Facebook’s 950 million users every day. This is why Facebook will always be free; we’re their product, not their customer, and we keep churning out data that they can sell to advertisers.

8) The simple act of people wishing each other “Happy New Year” drove a 500% rise in smartphone data within just one year, according to British provider 3UK. Their customers used 80 terabytes on the 31st December 2011 and 1st of January 2012, compared to just 14 TBs on the same days in 2010.


- Iain


Just a few housekeeping items this week…

1) Please be advised that DataHive has scheduled a service window for our VMWare cluster on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 8 PM mountain time. During this time, virtual servers will be offline for a period of approximately 30 minutes.

We require this service window to install a new firewall.

2) A reminder that food and drinks ARE NOT ALLOWED in the data centre. I keep finding coffee cups and discarded water bottles in the garbage cans. Please go out into the hallway if you’re feeling parched. We don’t need any unfortunate accidents involving spillage.

3) Please remove all cardboard boxes and/or paper from your rack. Combustibles are not allowed.

4) Please turn the lights out when you leave. The centre strip stays on all the time as a security measure (so our cameras can still get good video), but the rest of the lights should be off. Switches are located on the south wall and beside the exit to the man-trap door.


- Principal Iain