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What Does Data Center Uptime REALLY Mean?

By: Ernest Sampera on July 30, 2021

For today’s hyperconnected organizations, network outages of any kind can be devastating in terms of revenue, productivity, and brand reputation. Building a high availability IT infrastructure that can easily scale with demand and adapt quickly to potential risks can help companies deliver consistent services and keep their business growing. In order to do that, they need the right technology partners capable of supporting their applications and systems. Choosing a colocation provider with an outstanding reputation for data center uptime not only provides them with a solid foundation, but also opens the door to future digital transformation initiatives.

Understanding Data Center Uptime

In simple terms, a data center’s uptime reliability is measured by its ability to consistently deliver power and network connectivity to the servers hosted within its infrastructure. Multiple backup systems and redundancies need to be in place to protect that delicate environment from major problems like natural disasters, power grid outages, or equipment failure. If a cooling unit goes down, for instance, there are usually additional units already in place (sometimes several) to take up the slack until it can be replaced. Even a damaged or broken power line feeding into the facility isn’t enough to take down data center operations. Most providers have more than one power source and can supplement or even replace power needs with a combination of generators and power supplies that keep power flowing when the system changes over from one source to another.

But uptime is about more than just physical infrastructure. That’s because most cases of network downtime are not caused by a loss of power, hardware failure, or some unforeseen “act of God.” When servers go down, it’s often due to some form of configuration problem, software issue, or human error. Fortunately, modern colocation data centers offer extensive connectivity solutions that help IT managers keep their systems up and running so critical data and applications remain available to their customers.

Common Causes of Downtime

While there are many ways for a network to go down unexpectedly, there are a few common incidents that stand out as recurring problems.

Memory Leak

A common challenge that can impact anything from a personal computer to a high-density server cabinet, memory leak occurs when an application utilizes large volumes of RAM without freeing any. The longer the application runs, the more memory is consumed and never returned to the server’s available pool. Over time, the system will slow down as it struggles to complete processes until it finally crashes. The problem usually results from inefficient code or incorrect configurations. Perhaps the most infamous example of memory leak-related downtime was when Amazon Web Services went down in 2012 for several hours.

Runaway Process

Although the powerful servers commonly deployed in data centers are capable of performing intense processing workloads, even they have a breaking point where too much utilization will cause them to crash. A runaway process can be any application that somehow becomes locked in a CPU-intensive loop that causes it to take up a steadily increasing percentage of the CPUs computing capacity. This tends to be a minor issue in personal computers, but it can be catastrophic for an enterprise with an IT deployment running hundreds or even thousands of processes. In 2019, for instance, a problem with a software update caused Cloudflare’s servers to redline at nearly 100% CPU usage across the hosting provider’s network, resulting in 502 errors for anyone visiting their proxied domains for nearly 30 minutes.

Disk Full Error

Another common memory-related problem, disk full errors are caused when not enough storage space is available to complete various application processes. While most people frequently experience this issue on their personal devices and computers, organizations can run afoul of disk full errors when they put off upgrading their storage capacity for too long or encounter configuration errors and programming bugs that prevent programs from allocating storage properly. The later problem can even impact tech giants like Google, which suffered widespread service disruption in 2020 due to a memory allocation issue affecting the company’s authentication platform.

DDoS Attacks

While many network outage issues can be traced back to human error and software issues, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks also have the ability to disrupt services and bring systems crashing down. According to some estimates, 2020 saw as many as 10 million DDoS attacks, the largest year ever. Much of the increase is due to the widespread availability of inexpensive malicious software tools and for-hire services that help to coordinate cyberattacks. Multivector attacks are becoming more common, and while most incidents remain relatively small in size, the large-scale attacks are becoming even bigger, with a February 2020 attack on Amazon’s AWS systems topping out an astounding 2.3 Tbps.

How the Right Data Center Can Support Network Uptime

A colocation data center with the right connectivity options can provide access to the resources organizations need to keep their applications running without costly downtime incidents. With robust infrastructure redundancy serving as a stable foundation for a deployment’s physical footprint, direct cloud on-ramps and software-defined platforms allow colocation customers to leverage the very best services for their network footprint.

Migrating into a colocation data center is the best opportunity most organizations have to rethink how they manage their infrastructure and deliver applications. Rather than lifting and shifting into the cloud and potentially reproducing (or even multiplying) existing inefficiencies, they can instead build sophisticated multi-cloud environments that connect data and applications stored on private servers with a broad range of cloud-based services.

The big advantage here comes from the combination of versatility and visibility. Carrier-neutral data centers and software-defined networks provide easy access to additional computing resources as they’re needed. Individual applications can be tightly isolated to maintain strict control over data flow and limit the potential “blast radius” of any outage in the network. Predictive analytics monitoring both cloud deployments and physical servers in the data center can identify potential risks and odd network behavior as soon as they occur. Automated remediation tools can then be set to address incidents or alert support staff long before they have a chance to become customer impacting.

Get Unmatched Data Center Uptime with vXchnge

Featuring N+1 redundancies and backed by 100% uptime SLAs, vXchnge data centers are engineered for perfection and designed for performance. Every vXchnge customer maintains unmatched visibility into their deployment thanks to the revolutionary in\site intelligent monitoring platform. For customers looking for added protection against DDoS incidents, the vX\defend blended connectivity service automatically reroutes traffic through multiple ISPs to mitigate volumetric cyberattacks before they can cripple network services.

To learn more about how vXchnge delivers unparalleled data center uptime, talk to one of our colocation experts or schedule a tour of one of our facilities.

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