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It was a power outage that wasn’t - but Equinix Singapore's power hiccup last week could probably provide a lesson for all data centers and their customers.

Last Monday, we reported on the breaking news of a limited power outage at Equinix’s SG1 data center in Singapore. According to a source, the outage took place during a planned maintenance window to rectify a thermal anomaly with an existing transformer.

The maintenance was scheduled to take place in the wee hours of the morning over a weekend - in line with industry best practices - and was supposed to take two hours. Unfortunately, some users reportedly lost power, and were left none the wiser as to what had transpired.

Wrong use of power sockets
Datacenter Dynamics contacted Equinix, and the company issued a statement that confirmed the scheduled maintenance. At that time, Equinix told us that affected customers had a month’s notice, but did not say more beyond confirming that the “primary power supply” was indeed scheduled to be cut.

We spoke with Clement Goh, managing director, Equinix South Asia, on Thursday after the company was able to complete its investigation of the incident. Though Goh did not put it this way, it would appear that everything came down to the inappropriate use of power receptacles (outlets) by some customers.

According to Goh, Equinix offers a value-added service where customers with servers equipped with dual-power supplies can hook up their second power supply units (PSU) to a second set of power receptacles supplied from a backup feed. The cost to acquire the backup feed is lower than purchasing additional power sockets, given the implicit understanding that no power would be drawn from this backup source during normal operations.

It is understood that power was cut to the primary feed during the maintenance window, leaving the backup feed - which remained powered - to pick up the slack. While this shouldn’t have an impact on customers with properly functioning equipment, it turns out that some customers had plugged in their equipment with no regards to whether it is powered by a primary, or backup power source.

So were customers trying to take advantage of Equinix and gain access to cheaper power? The situation isn’t so straightforward, and Goh himself noted that it might be the case of some organizations having a different implementation and operations team. If the latter group is not aware of the differences, it is all too easy to imagine how subsequent reconfigurations or tweaks may not take that into consideration.

In all, investigations revealed that seven customers were affected. “We have engaged customers to help them with their configurations and will be doing physical checks in addition to reviewing their documentation,” said an Equinix spokesperson when we asked if the company is doing anything to prevent a recurrence.

Goh also told us that customers who were operating servers with single power supplies were not left worse off during the maintenance, as they were seamlessly transitioned to a secondary power source during the maintenance window.

Ultimately, perhaps the most telling issue would be whether any of its customers has filed a claim for breach of SLA, or Service Level Agreement. “No one has filed any SLA claims so far,” concluded Goh.