Large fire at Amazon datacentre building site

An Amazon datacentre in the US caught fire last week during construction

An Amazon datacentre in the US caught fire last week during construction.

The fire at the datacentre, which is still in the process of being built, was near Washington DC. The building will be an Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing datacentre.

According to US reports, no one was hurt in the blaze and firefighters had it under control in 50 minutes. A spokeswoman at the fire department that attended the incident said the fire was confined to the roof and construction materials.

 “Several workers who were on the roof when the fire broke out were able to safely self-extricate from the roof without injury,” she said.

Amazon reportedly said: “It was not a production facility and caused no impact or risk of impact to operations.”

While no customers were affected, the fire is a reminder to businesses which put their IT assets in the cloud that accidents and natural disasters do happen and must be prepared for through full backup and disaster recovery.

In 2011, both Amazon and Microsoft's European cloud services were down for a weekend after a lightning strike caused power failures at their datacentres in Dublin.

The lightning strike took out the main power supply and affected part of the phase-control system that synchronises the backup generator plant, causing a disruption to the service of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) cloud computing platform for the second time that year, as well as affecting Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

In 2008, online travel website Lastminute.com lost almost a day of business following a power failure at its communications supplier Colt.

A power outage at a Colt datacentre brought down the main Lastminute.com website and subsidiary sites, including Medhotels.com, Holidayautos.co.uk and Travelocity.co.uk. The fault lay with one of the main circuit breakers. At the time there was no automatic backup.

More recently, websites went offline as a result of problems with Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.

Paul Hinton, commercial technology partner at law firm Kemp Little, said: "Any serious IT team using cloud will not use it for important information, unless it has backup protections for the data, which can undermine the business case for cost reduction by using cloud.”

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