‘Unprecedented’ storage failure disrupts US state

Citizens in the US state of Virginia were unable to access a number of public services after the state government’s storage area network (SAN) suffered an ‘unprecedented’ hardware failure.

The SAN, a DMX-3 from storage infrastructure vendor EMC, failed last Wednesday afternoon, causing 228 of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency’s (VITA) servers to crash. Critically, VITA’s redundant systems – the spare infrastructure designed to take the strain when primary systems fail – also malfunctioned.

This outage disrupted services for 27 state agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Taxation and the State Board of Elections. Most of the services were back online by yesterday morning but the DMV is still unable to issue driver’s licenses.

EMC told VITA that the outage was “unprecedented”, according to a statement from Virginia’s secretary of technology Jim Duffey. “The manufacturer reports that the system and its underlying technology have an exemplary history of reliability, industry-leading data availability of more than 99.999 percent and no similar failure has occurred”

VITA is now “working tirelessly” to restore lost data, Duffey said.

Earlier this year, US email hosting provider Intermedia suffered an outage after a hardware failure in its EMC storage area network. “This failure caused the entire load for that SAN to be shifted to the service processor on the redundant controller node,” the company said at the time. “The spare capacity on the single service processor was not enough to handle the entire load of all systems connected to the SAN.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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