Resilience will displace performance as an ITI system design driver

By NIck Martyn Increasingly IT systems sit at the centre of our critical infrastructure (CI) networks. Systems Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems control much of the critical infrastructure essential to public safety and economic prosperity. During Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the extreme weather effects associated with climate change wreaked havoc on information technology infrastructure (ITI).

The consequences were staggering. Over 300 dead in hospitals in New Orleans because back-up power was lost under water, causing life support systems to fail and billions of dollars were lost on the New York Stock Exchange because the server room flooded and trading was interrupted for a week.

In a growing number of disruptive events we see that ITI is itself becoming a critical CI node; vulnerable to upstream effects such as the loss of electrical power or water for cooling and propagating that vulnerability to all its downstream dependencies. We have to re-think how SCADA systems and the ITI platforms they occupy are sited and protected from upstream environmental effects and how all the downstream functions that depend on them are backed up or we risk cascading consequences from which we may not be able to recover easily.

This requires a major re-think of our ITI with a focus on resilience not just performance. Minimum viable systems that can survive and recover from disruptive events are preferable to high performance systems that fail. There is a cost, but also a benefit. Resilient communities and nations are the right places to locate businesses and that fosters greater prosperity.

(NIck Martyn is CEO of RiskLogik)