The UK experienced a record-breaking heatwave on June 19 2022, which peaked at temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius.
The extreme heat—which melted road surfaces and fuelled a series of fires which broke out in London—caused outages at a critical Google Cloud data centre in London, and another Oracle-owned data centre in the UK.
Both Google Cloud and Oracle reported serious issues with their existing cooling infrastructure within the data centre facilities, and powered their servers off to avoid potential long-term damage to critical hardware components from the intense heatwave.
However, the companies’ move to take their data centre equipment offline affected key services related to cloud storage and computing, resulting in disruptions in their customers’ websites and services.
Ill-equipped to Deal with Extreme Conditions and Climate Change
Google Cloud did not directly mention the heatwave as a cause for the data centre outage, only announcing in a statement that a “cooling-related failure” in one of its buildings had caused a partial failure of capacity, leading to VM terminations and a loss of machines.
At the time of the data centre outage, Oracle provided a status update saying that “as a result of unseasonal temperatures in the region, a subset of cooling infrastructure within the UK South (London) Data Centre has experienced an issue. As a result, some customers may be unable to access or use Oracle Cloud Infrastructure resources hosted in the region.”
The company added that “the relevant service teams have been engaged and are working to restore the affected infrastructure back to a healthy state however, as a precautionary measure, we are in the process of identifying service infrastructure that can be safely powered down to prevent additional hardware failures. This step is being taken with the intention of limiting the potential for any long term impact to our customers.”
While many people find Britain’s record-breaking heatwave alarming, experts have warned that this will not be a once-off incident.
As climate change progresses, intense heatwaves will soon become the norm across the globe, and temporary, stop-gap measures—such as operational shutdowns—will be insufficient to work around extreme conditions caused by climate change.
UN World Meteorological Organisation Chief Petteri Taalas observed that “heatwaves are becoming more frequent and this negative trend will continue at least until the 2060s, independent of our success in climate mitigation efforts. In the future these kinds of heatwaves are going to be normal, and we will see even stronger extremes.”
Although Oracle and Google Cloud affirmed that they do not expect further disruptions and are working to bring their services and data centres back online, this recent case of disruptions has only revealed serious inadequacies of existing data centre infrastructure to handle extreme temperatures and climate conditions.
As climate change inevitably worsens, current designs and existing infrastructure will become even more obsolete and ill-equipped to function through intense heatwaves. Are the data centres climate-ready?
Join the conversation at W.Media’s Asia Pacific Cloud & Datacenter Awards programme, where enterprise users and industry experts will come together to share their insights and opinions on data centre projects and hyperscale cooling innovations. If you are interested in nominating or sponsoring, visit our Awards Page for more information. Nominations are open until 31st July.