Five questions about the fire at the OVHcloud data center in Strasbourg


Internet is on fire. A gigantic fire ravaged, Wednesday March 10, one of the four data centers of the company OVHcloud installed in Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin). The destruction of these servers led to the taking of several websites offline, in France and around the world, including that of the Center Pompidou or the Clermont-Ferrand rugby club.

Franceinfo takes stock of this news item which recalls the very material reality of our virtual communication networks.

1What is OVHcloud?

Founded in 1999 under the name OVH, the company OVHcloud had started by hosting websites, before launching into “cloud” services (outsourced data storage) during the decade 2010. With a few rare other players, this company carries the hopes of the European cloud against the American and Chinese giants of this sector which has become strategic for the digital economy. She announced Monday to prepare for a possible IPO. The group has 2,450 employees, half of them in France, and 32 data centers around the world, for a turnover of 600 million euros in 2019.

2What happened ?

The fire broke out at 12:47 a.m. in one of the four OVHcloud data centers installed in the industrial area of ​​Port du Rhin, east of the Alsatian capital, not far from the German border. It mobilized significant relief resources, including 115 firefighters and 44 machines, police officers and civil security agents, as well as German operational resources.

“The fire quickly spread through the building. We set up a large hydraulic system, using a high-powered pump boat. [qui a prélevé l’eau du Rhin], to prevent spread to adjoining buildings “, told AFP Damien Harroué, commander of the relief operations. Besides the wooden floors, also burned “plastics, it generates significant smoke and flames”, he added. Shortly before 7 a.m., the prefecture announced that the fire was “circumscribed”, greeting her “strong mobilization” fire soldiers.

Investigations have been launched to discover the origin of the incident. According to a source close to the case cited by AFP, “the first elements of the investigation (…) suggest an accidental fire start”. “The investigation was entrusted to the departmental security of Bas-Rhin”, we added.

3What are the material damages?

The fire caused no injuries, but the material damage was significant. According to the report drawn up by OVH, the flames destroyed the SBG2 data center, the epicenter of the disaster, and damaged a third of the neighboring center, SBG1. The other two data centers were not affected, simply disconnected as a precaution.

The firefighters carried out pollution tests in the atmosphere, which made it possible to rule out any risk of contamination. The OVHcloud site, installed on a plot formerly occupied by ArcelorMittal, is not classified Seveso, unlike other sites in the industrial zone.

4Has any data been lost permanently?

The fire and the power cut that accompanied it had repercussions far beyond French borders, affecting, according to OVH, “12,000 to 16,000 customers”. As of Thursday, several websites are still offline. OVHcloud, however, indicated that it was not yet able to confirm any definitive losses, arguing that, depending on the safeguards, “there are as many possibilities as there are customers”.

The customers contacted by franceinfo are also in the dark, awaiting the restart of the servers. “The damage, for the moment, we do not know. In the medium term, we no longer have a website, explains Aurélien Perrin, director of communication and development of ASM Rugby. We hope for a recovery by the end of the week, although it is not catastrophic because we do not have games this week and the players are on vacation. “. One of the important functions of the site, the ticket office, is unnecessary in this time of Covid-19 anyway.

Founder of Final Fantasy Ring, an information site on video game studio Square Enix, Bastien Péan is also waiting to be fixed. “My site is on the SBG1 building, so I have two out of three chances of having a good surprise”, he explains. This site, which he started as a teenager and which does not bring him any income, did not have a recent backup. “It is potentially a year of work that is destroyed, but the fault is on my side: OVH offers automatic ‘backup’ systems, for which I have not opted”, he says.

On Twitter, the online survival game Rust announced that some players would have to start their game all over again: their progress was stored in the affected servers and “cannot be restored”.

Safeguards, the Hautes-Pyrénées departmental council had made them regularly. “We had an interruption of a few hours but our service provider then had our site hosted in another data center”, managed by a company other than OVH, we explain to the department. Only the updates for Tuesday were lost.

5How does OVH react?

On its site, as on Twitter, the company has communicated a lot since the start of the incident, in particular through its CEO, Octave Klaba. In a message posted on the social network, the latter apologized to the affected customers, indicating that the day of Wednesday “had been the worst in the last 22 years”. “There are no words strong enough to say how sorry I am”, he assured.

To respond to the crisis, the company says it has booked, free, “infrastructure on [ses] other data centers for impacted customers “. Octave Klaba specifies on Twitter that OVHcloud plans to restart the SBG1 and SBG4 centers on March 15 and SBG3 on the 19. Thursday morning, cleaning and security work began on the site.


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