El Niño is expected to impact the Southeast Asian region by mid-year, as reported by the Weather and Climate Services for ASEAN (ASMC). According to ASMC, there are indications of changing wind patterns observed through the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) monitoring system. According to ASMC, ENSO reading is currently set as Neutral and is predicted to persist till June 2023, with increased chance of El Nino conditions in the second half of 2023. In a report published on May 3, 2023, by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the chances of El Nino developing later this year is increasing. There is a 60% likelihood for a transition from ENSO-Neutral to El Nino during the May-July 2023 period. The chances will increase to 70% in June-August and 80% between July-September. This prediction is the result of assessments by the WMO Global Producing Centres of Long-Range Forecasts and expert analysis.
Countries in Southeast Asia along the equator are already taking proactive measures. Local reports from Malaysia indicate that the government is already planning preventive actions such as cloud seeding.
Among the main concerns for countries in the region include heat stress, water scarcity, haze, and fire alerts.
According to Wisnoe Prabadi, the technical advisor for the Ministry of Information Indonesia and the technical advisor for Indonesia Data Center Provider Organization, countries such as Indonesia need to be aware and prepare accordingly for the arrival of El Niño.
“Natural disasters are always a major concern for data center operators due to their unpredictable impact. Indonesia, with its awareness of earthquakes, now need to prepare for El Niño, which has a different set of challenges such as heat, water and fire,” said Wisnoe, who is also serving as the technical commissioner for the National Cyber and Crypto Agency in Indonesia.
Fire risks are of particular concern, as El Niño could pose a significant threat to the data center industry, especially those located in West Java. The 2016 forest fires worsened by El Niño resulted in the region’s worst haze episode on record. Anticipated dry weather conditions pose concerns as it has the potential to intensify seasonal fires.
“Fire is a primary concern that can occur anywhere and having a backup site is necessary. Even with a generator, its effectiveness is limited if it is in the same vicinity as the data center.
“While we can’t predict the exact locations of these incidents, we can prepare for them during this climate cycle,” said Wisnoe, who has over 40 years of experience in the data center industry.
With rising temperatures already affecting Indonesia, data center operators are increasing the output of their cooling systems, Wisnoe reveals.
“I’ve received information that our data center cooling systems are working harder this month (May) in comparison to previous months, as we have to adjust our cooling systems to lower temperatures due to changing climate patterns,” said Wisnoe.
“Given the anticipated temperature changes in the coming months or year, cooling systems should be controlled automatically instead of manually. Air cooling systems are likely to be more affected than water cooling systems during this hot period, unless water shortage issues arise, which would pose another set of challenges,” he added.
Plan for Disaster Recovery
Disaster recovery planning is essential for data centers affected by El Niño, according to Wisnoe. A comprehensive cloud backup solution and the establishment of a secondary site are vital components in disaster recovery.
“In the case of a physical secondary site, staff relocation should be considered for data centers. Remote operations cannot be a viable option for the secondary operation,” advised Wisnoe.
Wisnoe also noted that in the case of power outages due to fire risks in the affected areas, generators at secondary sites must be capable of providing long-lasting power supply.
“There are other considerations regarding safety but these are some of the main preventive measures. We cannot predict precisely where and when incidents will happen, but we can prepare for the worst,” said Wisnoe.