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New York tech firms form 'bucket brigade' to fuel flagging servers

Shifting fuel 17 floors up by hand

Fuel buckets

Three technology firms have joined forces to avoid any data center downtime in the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy amid the continuing power outages crippling Lower Manhattan.

Employees of Peer 1 Hosting, blog host Squarespace, and Fog Creek Software have formed a 'bucket brigade', lugging diesel up to the backup generators located on the 17th floor of the 75 Broad Street offices in which they are based. So far they have proved successful – Peer 1's servers are still rolling, the only one in the building still to do so.

"Bucket brigade going strong. We’ve gone through half of our morning fuel delivery and are expecting a truck with 5,000 gallons coming at noon. Potential issues are lack of bucket brigade manpower into the night, and our fuel pumps burning out," said the Squarespace blog. "Spirits are strong and everyone from Peer 1, Fog Creek, and Squarespace is working together."

The generators for the servers are high up in the building, safe from damage, but the company's problems stem from the fact that the fuel reserves and the equipment to pump the diesel upstairs are located in the basement and were disabled by flood waters. The firm is dependent on fuel trucks unloading what the generators need in 55 gallon drums and then lugging it upstairs on muscle power alone.

Fuel buckets

Workin on a chain gang...

With the storm largely past, work is now beginning to pump out water from the basement of the building, but it seems that the damage is more extensive than first expected and a water main may have ruptured. Certainly attempts to pump out the basement water and get the fuel pumps working are failing so far.

Peer 1 appears to be the only hosting company still capable of offering a service below 34th Street, but that situation can't last much longer. The site is totally dependent on regular deliveries of fuel and having enough manpower to get it upstairs, and both can't be sustained indefinitely.

"This situation is untenable. We can’t keep manpower going 24/7 for days," Squarespace warns. "The building’s first attempt at an alternative method for pumping fuel to the 18th floor has failed, as the fuel pump wasn’t powerful enough. They believe they have sourced an alternate pump, but given the situation in New York City right now, we’re in a wait-and-see posture. Fuel- and water-pumps are in short supply." ®

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