Data Management

Data Center Fire Fries Samsung’s Un-Backed-Up Servers

A fire that erupted at the data center of Samsung SDS in Gwacheon, South Korea, reportedly took out services to Samsung smartphones, tablets and smart TVs for several hours.

The company reportedly stopped all services offered through its website and smartphone apps, and said consumers could not use its online payment services or receive text message confirmations of payments made.

The size of payments made by Korean consumers abroad using cards affiliated with other partners, including American Express, apparently also was restricted as a result of the fire.

The data center hosted the main servers for Samsung Life Insurance, Samsung Card and Samsung Asset Management, said Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service.

The FSS claimed some of the companies’ servers did not have remote backup.

More Details on the Fire

Samsung put out a notice in Korean on its ICT Story website. A version converted to English by IMTranslator revealed the fire began at 12:25 p.m. local time.

No one was injured by the flames, although a subcontractor apparently was hurt by a falling wall.

The blaze lasted several hours, but more details are not yet available.

In addition to the interruption in service, the integrated information system of several Samsung Group affiliates went down, forcing their management to physically go to banks in order to pay employees.

Samsung Card reportedly is moving data to a data center in Suwon. Building of a backup data center began last May and is scheduled for completion next February.

What’s a Samsung SDS?

Samsung SDS is a subsidiary established in 1985 to provide IT consulting services, technical services and outsourcing services. It has 11 offices and data centers in 11 countries.

It operates the Samsung SDS Multi-Campus, the largest IT education institute in South Korea, and apparently requires that employees spend 10 percent of their working hours taking courses there.

The company is ramping up sales abroad and will reduce its dependence on the domestic IT services business, its Businessweek profile indicates.

Samsung SDS was one of the companies awarded a contract in October by the Dubai government to develop a comprehensive smart healthcare initiative in that country. It signed up Belgian firm GPXS Services last November to power its push into enterprise mobility in Europe.

In the U.S., Samsung SDS last year won a contract to pilot TransitTap, an open payment system using NFC and other contactless technology on the Centennial Express, a transit system run by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

That pilot ended in January, and RTC will not continue with a full implementation.

“We are no longer working with SDS so we have no concerns,” RTC spokesperson Heather Curry told TechNewsWorld.

Fallout From the Flames

News that some servers may not have been backed up might cause concern for customers who signed contracts with SDS.

“It is common practice to have redundant systems for communications and financial systems,” Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld. “I would expect major customers to demand some level of proof that [backup] systems are in place.”

Samsung SDS did not respond to our request for further details.

Possible Explanations for the Oversight

“Geographically remote backup is certainly a best practice, especially for systems and facilities involved in financial transactions, but it’s not always followed rigorously,” Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld.

Several of the banks and financial firms on the upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York had their disaster recovery facilities on lower floors of their buildings, for example.

The oversight also could have been due to understaffing and the heavy workload commonly borne by IT staffers.

“Corporate data centers are large places often managed by relatively small staffs,” King pointed out.

“I have seen situations where the service was new or the company was growing so fast that new customers and services were brought online without the necessary level of redundancy just because of time and resource limitations,” McGregor said. “However, there really is no excuse for this to occur.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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