Here’s a second extract from Trading Down, by Stephen Norman, which continues the drama in the Hamilton Datacentre.

We should say that while this book is about cybercrime it’s not just for techies – and it’s not just set in datacentres. The action is in Hong Kong, New York, London and, more surprisingly, Yemen and Dubai.

Catch the first extract from last week here. 

TRADING DOWN by Stephen Norman

Hamilton datacentre: 00:34am Eastern Standard Time

Mannie arrived. He was wearing pajamas with a fleece on top and black moccasins on his feet, no socks. When he saw the open door to the chiller plant, he went white. Then he disappeared down it. Luis could hear him screaming at Frank.

They appeared together, Mannie shouting at Frank in Yiddish, punching him on the head, pushing him along. Luis had never seen Mannie mad before.

“And you! Luis! Where is McQuade! And the IR?”

“The Incident Report went out, boss,” said Luis, “and McQuade’s gonna be here in forty five minutes, mebbe less.”

“I’m not your boss, Karen is your boss, and where the hell is she?”

Silence.

“Traffic on the Parkway,” said Frank finally.

“At midnight? You’re kidding. OK, when did this start?”

“Just past midnight.”

“Half an hour ago,” said Mannie, “sh*t, you idiots have wasted half an hour.”

“It’s just Laurel,” said Frank sullenly, “It’s something simple. Power’s still on. It should be working.”

“Mannie, should we call Business Continuity?” This was John, fresh from last week’s training class on disaster recovery.

“John, shut the f**k up, OK? We call Business Continuity, we’re gonna spend an hour explaining what a chiller is and doing risk assessments. Meanwhile the datacentre gets toasted – and where the hell have you been, young lady?”

The figure in the doorway was a foot shorter than Frank, but weighed about the same. She was dressed in blue jeans with a 48” waist and a check shirt on top. She was breathing heavily.

“Sorry, Mannie, had trouble getting here.”

“Heavy traffic in the bar, eh? When this is over we’re going to be talking. So, guys, Paul Carpenter saw the IR and he woke up Neil Jenkins in London already. And what was Neil’s first question? Yeah, where is McQuade?”

Fearful silence. Paul Carpenter ran TIS in the Americas, and he was a tricky bastard. Political. But he was a pet lamb compared Neil Jenkins. There were almost 100 datacentres of various sizes in Neil’s empire, scattered around the world, but he noticed the smallest transgressions. Which he neither forgave, nor forgot.

“London has opened a call. Karen, dial us in. Put it on speaker.”

“Who just joined?” said an English voice.

“Mannie Seibowitz and the Hamilton NOC here,” said Mannie, bending over the speaker.

“Thank you, Mannie, can you give us an update at 0545? Right now I’d like to get an update from Business Continuity. Marcie?” said the incident manager with his oh-so-perfect English manners. And his quaint British Summer Time, 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard.

“Looks like someone called Business Continuity anyways,” said Frank.

“Shut the f**k up, Frank” said Mannie viciously, “call McQuade and find out where they are. John, get me the latest temperatures. Luis, how many machines we lost, by business. We got three minutes before we give an update.”

Mannie’s cellphone lit up.

“Mannie? It’s John Uzgalis from London.”

“Just got here,” said Mannie. “No, it’s the Laurel hall. Yeah, only Laurel. Listen, gotta run.”

“This is Marcie from Americas Business Continuity,” came a voice from the Polycom. “I’ve called the business heads, especially Asset Management. I’ve set up an exec call for 1.15am. We need a plan from IT before then.”

“Great,” said Mannie bitterly, “that’s thirty minutes from now. Every computer in Laurel will have fried and the McQuade guys will just be driving in.”

Thurleigh Road, South London: 05:35 GMT, June 15 2012

Noise. Had his alarm gone off? No. Chris Peters lay still in bed, confused. Outside he could hear a songthrush, greeting the new day. His brain snapped into work mode. It was Friday. Triple Witching. Had they fixed Chopstix in time? What about the EOS batch?

The noise again. It was his Blackberry, ringing and vibrating at the same time. Bloody hell, must be Dave Carstairs with a production problem. He picked it up and stared at the screen, confused. A call from BUSINESS CONTINUITY – LONDON.

Huh? What?

More noise. The phone in his study was ringing. Then the old phone downstairs. The whole world was ringing and he was suddenly afraid. He pressed the ANSWER button on his Blackberry and it spoke to him:

…THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR CHRIS PETERS. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT INCIDENT IN THE HAMILTON DATACENTRE. DIAL INTO YOUR DISASTER RECOVERY BRIDGE IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT A DRILL…

And all the while, the other phones kept ringing, loud enough to wake the dead.

Chris sat naked, hunched over at the top of his stairs, and dialled into the Technology DR bridge. It was chaos. Everyone had a question. No one had answers. The incident manager was struggling to corral the troops.

Chris put the bridge on hold and called John Uzgalis.

“John, what’s going on?”

“I called Mannie Seibowicz, he’s the TIS guy who runs the NOC in Hamilton,” said Uzgalis. “He just arrived on site, looks like a cooling problem in Laurel. Could be worse, we got nothing but dev and test kit in there.”

“Me too. Great news. OK, ciao, gonna put some clothes on.”

Chris threw on a pair of old corduroys and a lumberjack shirt. He opened his front door and sat on the steps outside. He wanted the phone on speaker but he didn’t want to disturb Olivia. It was a bright morning with scattered clouds. With luck, this incident would be deemed harmless and in half an hour he would be drinking tea with Olivia – swiftly followed by baby making.

As he dialled back into the bridge, the sun slipped behind low clouds and the street darkened, as if to warn him.

Hamilton datacentre: 00:47 EST 

Mannie was hunched over the Polycom, ready to give his update.

“Well, thank God it is only Laurel,” said Luis, glancing at the clock on the wall. It said 00:47. This was a moment he would never forget. He would bore his family with this moment for years to come. But he didn’t know that, not quite yet.

“Why nobody cares about Laurel?” said John. “It’s full and the Hardy hall’s half empty.”

“It’s not just how many computers,” said Luis, “it’s what they do. There’s only developer and test kit in Laurel. Plus Asset Management – no-one cares about them. Hardy Hall has the mainframe. We lose that, all the US branches will be shut down. Plus Canada, Mexico, Brazil. No banking, no payments, sh*t, no cash machines. Global Markets won’t be trading. On a Triple Witching day. If this was Hardy melting down, we’d be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal tomorrow.”

“Mannie? Mannie?” This was John, watching the screens with puppy-like devotion.

“Not now, John, I gotta give my update.”

“But look at these messages: 1108 Excess temperature alert. There’s six of them, all from different machines.”

“So what?” said Mannie, distracted. “We’ve seen hundreds of them.”

“Yes, but these servers are in the other hall. Hardy. The big hall.”

“They can’t be. Hardy is on different chillers.” That was Frank.

“No, John’s right,” said Luis, “those boxes are in Hardy.”

“It’s impossible,” said Frank, “I’m telling you, there’s different chillers for the Hardy Hall, different electrics… ain’t no connection.”

“Oh sh*t! There’s more of them… look at that,” said John. “Those are Windows servers in the same aisle. Houston, we got a problem.”

Almost in sync, Mannie’s cellphone and the handset on the table started ringing. Then Karen’s. It was Paul Carpenter in Manhattan, and the NOC in London, and in Chennai. The whole world was calling, all with the same question: What the f**k is going on in Aisle E, Hardy Hall, Hamilton Datacentre, NJ 10392?


The third and final extract from the novel will be published on our website on 6 November 2017.


Trading Down by Stephen Norman is on Amazon pre-order for Kindle delivery on 9 November, 2017.

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