THE BRITISH AIRWAYS IT meltdown that left 75,000 passengers stranded over the bank holiday weekend was reportedly to blame on a bumbling contractor who inadvertently switched off the power supply.
The contractor was attempting to complete work at a British Airways data centre, according to a BA employee who spoke to the Times, and shut down a power supply unit which had otherwise been working normally.
The source claimed that an investigation into the power outage is likely to focus on human error rather than any equipment failure.
The power supply unit, called the Uninterruptible Power System, was reportedly designed and installed in the mid-1980s, and located at Boadicea House at Heathrow, the company's main global data centre. The engineer, meanwhile, is reportedly from contractor CBRE Global Workplace Solutions.
The blame on a single IT engineer comes after BA had insisted that a power failure, followed by a power surge when systems were carelessly brought back online, was to blame for the global IT outage.
The airline was adamant that the chaos did not happen as a result of an ageing data centre prone to over-heating, or that it was a consequence of outsourcing much of its IT to India.
Willie Walsh, the CEO of BA's holding company IAG, had initially claimed that a power surge affecting the company's data centre at Heathrow had caused systems to go down, while an attempt to restore systems from back-ups also failed.
He then insisted that the attempt to restore systems was the main cause. A source backed up this view - telling the Telegraph that power ‘resumed in an uncontrolled fashion', damaging servers which contained data about flights, passengers and flight paths.
This led to IT staff having to rebuild servers to get services back to normal. Another source told The Sun that BA could face months of issues with data as it continues to find corrupt files.
But while BA is sticking to its story that this was not an IT failure, anecdotal evidence from IT staff working from BA suggests that the ageing data centre suffered from overheating for some years, with air conditioning equipment struggling to keep temperatures down and staff even resorting to hosing the roof of the building during particularly hot spells.
The assertion from someone within BA that a single IT engineer could have brought an entire global IT system down by the flick of a switch is likely to be scrutinised heavily.
Even if the mains breaker was switched off, the UPS should be resilient enough to handle this, and there should be load sharing with another data centre that is geographically distant. The company did not have the proper back-ups in place to deal with this. µ
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