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Fire at the Needle

While fireworks were cancelled this year in downtown Seattle for the Fourth of July, the Seattle Space Needle towered above a minor inferno late Thursday night that created major headaches at one of Seattle’s most modern data centers, located directly across the street.

Seattle’s Fisher Plaza, home to KOMO TV, KOMO Radio, the Internap Data Center, and several other area Internet companies including Seattle Web host provider, Adhost, was the scene of an electrical blaze triggered by a blown transformer at around 11pm July 2nd that shut down internet access in the East Data Center of the Fisher complex and knocked out dozens, if not hundreds, of area Web sites until the afternoon of July 3rd.

Among the largest sites affected, Authorize.net, and Microsoft’s BING Travel, were laid low, the former a critical link in many e-commerce transactions and the latter among the slowest to be restored because of special configuration requirements. A list of other blacked-out sites, including Big Fish Games, AllRecipes.com, the Pacific Science Center, and this site, Seattle24x7.com, among others, were disabled.

Seattle tech reporter Todd Bishop lamented that this is the second time a fire has created an outage at this world-class facility, and the problem underscores the question of uninterruptible Web services, cloud computing, SaaS and e-commerce in an age where power outages can vanquish whole city blocks.

The early pioneers of Internet design used to point to the Net’s indestructible capability to survive in a catastrophe by routing around an outage. But until such time as the decentralized Web creates a protocol for a global 301 redirect that automatically forwards users to a secondary, off-site server location, a single co-location solution will always be vulnerable.

This isn’t a criticism of any of the companies in Fisher Plaza because the same situation can happen anywhere. Imagine a plane crash, an explosion, or a fire taking place in your Web hosting facility. If you don’t have a duplicate copy of your Website in another building or at another facility you are flamed out, like a spent fuse on the Fifth of July. [24×7]