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Homesingapore business'This is not supposed to happen': Experts on DBS, Citi outage caused...

'This is not supposed to happen': Experts on DBS, Citi outage caused by data centre failure

SINGAPORE: Banks are heavily reliant on data centres for their operations, making it crucial to have a backup data centre should one fail, banking and technology experts told CNA in the wake of a DBS and Citibank outage earlier this month

These centres form the nerve centre of the banking ecosystem, and they store, manage and process massive amounts of data, the experts said. 

In the case of DBS and Citibank, the data centre they used experienced technical issues with its cooling system during a planned upgrade, raising temperatures and affecting equipment. The incident disrupted both banks’ payment and banking services on Oct 14

Last Friday, the banks’ data centre provider Equinix said its initial investigation found that the incident was caused by a vendor contractor. The contractor had incorrectly sent a signal to close the valves from the chilled water buffer tanks, which affected the flow of chilled water to the cooling system. 

Equinix said it is reviewing its processes and putting in place additional audits to prevent a similar incident during future upgrades.

The DBS and Citibank outage started on Oct 14 at 3pm and only fully resumed the following morning. Customers were unable to access both banks’ apps and online banking or payment services such as PayLah! and PayNow. ATM services were also down at several locations.

Last Thursday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it had ordered both banks to conduct a thorough investigation, noting that the downtime exceeded its limit of four hours within a 12-month period. 

While MAS has no oversight over data centres, it expects banks to establish contractual agreements with data centre providers that incorporate its requirements on system availability, it said. 

Related:

DBS, Citi outages caused by cooling system 'technical issue' at data centre

DBS, Citi outage: MAS orders banks to conduct thorough investigation, supervisory actions to follow

DATA CENTRES THE “NERVE CENTRE”

Data centres and their functions form the backbone of modern-day businesses, said Associate Professor Lee Poh Seng. 

“At their core, they house a variety of components, including servers, storage systems, networking hardware like switches and routers, and the cabling infrastructure necessary for data and network communications,” said Assoc Prof Lee, who is from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

Singapore Management University’s (SMU) Dr Patrick Thng, who has close to three decades of experience in banking, including as managing director at various banks, likened data centres to a car’s engine. 

“From very fundamental office support applications … to banking critical operations, like core banking, credit card applications, ATM, foreign exchange trading, branch platform, digital banking services, (all rely on data centres),” said the director of a financial technology and analytics programme at SMU. 

“Data centres have massive storage to store all your transactions and customer data. Banks rely on this data centre like a nerve centre.”

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