Turkey: Earthquakes & Data Centres

Turkey would make an ideal communications hub for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But it’s literally on shaky ground. How could it defend itself against earthquakes and attract more data centre business into the country?

Turkey would make an ideal communications hub for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But it’s literally on shaky ground. How could it defend itself against earthquakes and attract more data centre business into the country?

Turkey is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It is solvent and is one of the few countries not to have suffered the effects of the world recession. On top of which, Turkey is literally at the centre of the world giving it limitless opportunity to be a true global hub of communications. In fact at the fourth annual Data Centre Dynamics Istanbul conference, it was reported that “key metrics such as white space, power consumption and investment, showed that in 2012, Turkey’s total data centre footprint expanded by over 22% to reach 110,000m2.”

Of course, some people may be concerned that recent riots have portrayed it as a nation plagued by civil unrest and, despite its best efforts, Turkey remains outside of the EU? However, financial and geographic considerations aside, there is one factor that truly counts against Turkey as a strategic location supporting fast growth - it sits on a minor tectonic plate and most of the country lies on the fault zones of the Anatolian Plate. Over the past century, earthquakes of between 6.5 to 7.9 on the Richter Scale are common. The last earthquake in 2011 was a 7.2-magnitude tremor which hit east Turkey. These put densely populated and highly industrialised areas like Istanbul at a high risk of catastrophe.

Dogan Kalafat, a researcher at the Earthquake Research Institute at Bogazici University believes the next big quake will strike close to Istanbul. According to Kalafat's projections, there is a 75% chance that a magnitude 7+ earthquake will occur there within 40 years. The US Geological Survey also calculated there was a 70% chance of a major Istanbul earthquake within 30 years.

Data centres cost tens of millions of Euros to build. And in a disaster it is not only the data centre that is taken out - the people and associated businesses are brought down too. The losses in labour productivity, revenue and damaged reputation are incalculable. Imagine if Facebook had all its ICT in one DC that was brought down by an Earthquake, it would soon be replaced as the top social media site. Who would wait around for a year while it built a new data centre?

Yet an earthquake doesn’t have to mean complete destruction for a data centre, it just has to be properly mitigated for. This takes some thought and sadly many disaster recovery plans are flawed as, to save money, they put their second power source in the same place as the first (which saves them the expense of creating another conduit for the equipment). However, this neutralises the whole rationale of having a backup system because if one is taken out, the second is most likely to go too.

There are numerous ways to prevent complete destruction of data centres by earthquakes such as to build on isolators, which absorb shock while the ground below shudders; installing racks at floor-level, rather than leaving them on a fragile raised floor; and bolting equipment and racks to the floor might be a better idea, if you are using a building that’s literally on shaky ground. Small changes to their inter-rack cabling such as using the appropriate plugs which stay within the kit from slight shudders rather than loosely falling out could mean the difference between thriving businesses to bankruptcy.

The best solution of course, is to build a data centre where none or few earthquakes ever occur! Anyone for a floating data centre?

Turkey has a long way to go before it achieves the same level of data centre resilience as its European counterparts. But it is an ambitious country and has a lot of potential on the world communications stage. Things are moving quickly, UK-based firm TCL Data are currently working closely with large Turkish Organisations to help build a more resilient data centre. Their expertise in data centre design is exclusive to the considerations of Mother Nature’s hatred of data centres and subsequent loss of business through failed IT systems.

In the words of Turkish writer Ahmet Rasim, who charted the many tectonic shifts in Turkey's political landscape, “The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy.” That might be true, but I don't think we should quote him when we put our next co-location proposal together. 


Uff Ali is a Data Centre Consultant based in the UK