Power is back up after a major outage at Stanford University halted or delayed Internet access for tens of thousands of users in areas throughout California.
By late Friday night, a "vast majority" of the Net access had been restored, according to a spokesman for BBN Planet, the ISP that was hit hardest by the Stanford power outage.
In addition to the campus itself, the outage affected the University of California at Berkeley, Hewlett-Packard, Genentech, BBN Planet, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner.
"Some users experienced delays in sending traffic," said Pepe Garcia, information technologies solutions specialist at HP. Like many of BBN's customers, such as Silicon Graphics, and Cisco, HP has multiple ISPs, allowing its traffic to be rerouted.
The shutdown illustrates the fragility of the Internet and its tributaries, a concern that has drawn increasing attention as the number of companies and individuals using the worldwide network continues to grow exponentially. The outage is of particular embarrassment to Stanford, which built its cogeneration power plant to make itself largely independent of Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility serving the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Our battery backup system wasn't adequate," conceded Chip Haven, acting director for network systems at the university.
The problem began when the power went out at Stanford Thursday night. A 12,000-volt switch gear failed at the university's cogeneration facility because rats got into the casing and caused an explosion.
That hit BARRNet, the Internet service provider whose PoP (point of presence) is at the university, and its customers. BARRNet is part of Internet service provider BBN, which said about 400 of its business and organizational customers were affected.
UC Berkeley has an estimated 50,000 email users, and Stanford claims "tens of thousands" of users. As with Stanford, students, professors, and researchers at Berkeley could still send email internally but not to the outside world.
Many of them depend on that external communication, however. Some companies were hurt less than others, because they had backup ISPs to route Net traffic.
Genentech also sent out messages to its workers confirming that they could not sent email to the outside. Genentech has some 2,500 employees, most of them on email.
At Stanford, many faculty members went home Friday, unable to do any of their work without power, though phones continued to function. The university said its hospital was operating normally, but some Stanford University Medical Center research and office buildings have been affected by the outage.