The intense heat that exhausted California’s power grid on Labor Day wiped out one of the main Twitter data centers in Sacramento, according to a report.
While Twitter avoided shutting down on September 5 by relying on other data centers in Portland, Oregon, and Atlanta during the outage to keep its systems running, a company executive warned that if another one goes missing, some users won’t be able to. To access the social media platform, according to an internal memo obtained by CNN.
Labor Day temperatures in Sacramento broke the daily record of 114 degrees, with temperatures reaching 116 degrees in the afternoon.
To run their online services to users, tech companies like Twitter, Google, or Meta rely on data centers that can demand large amounts of power and often generate large amounts of heat, requiring cooling systems to keep things running. As climate change continues to warm the planet, the Twitter outage highlights how extreme weather is affecting the internet systems that billions of people depend on every day.
To address the heat stress on such online infrastructure, some US-based companies have moved their data centers to countries with cooler climates, such as Google, which built a data center in Finland.
The record-breaking heat wave that swept the UK in July decimated Google Cloud data centers, as well as the cloud-based Oracle system, both located in London. These outages have left customers unable to access online services for nearly an entire day.
A Twitter spokesperson told The Times on Monday that there were no disruptions to people’s abilities to access or use the app, but declined to answer questions about the outage highlighted by the CNN report.
“On September 5th, Twitter saw the loss of the Sacramento Data Center (SMF) area due to severe weather. Carrie Fernandez, the company’s vice president of engineering, reported last Friday in an internal message to Twitter engineers that the unprecedented event led to the complete shutdown of physical equipment. in SMF.
“If we lose one of the remaining data centers, we may not be able to deliver traffic to all Twitter users,” Fernandez warned.
Although major tech companies have so many data centers that if one fails, another can continue to serve it, former Twitter security chief Peter Zatko, who was fired this year, warned in a whistleblower complaint about the fragility of the company’s data centers as “Even a simple interconnected data center failure,” can increase “the risk of a brief outage to a catastrophic and existential risk to Twitter’s survival.”
Such overlapping outages are “likely to result in service interruptions for weeks, months, or permanently,” the complaint said.
Zitko is expected to address the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.