The backup generator for this data center kicks in about 12 seconds after the power goes out, says an IT pilot fish who works there.

At least that's how it's supposed to work. "The system starts with a battery and then kicks in the gas-powered system," fish says. "This powers emergency lights, some wall sockets and, of course, the entire server room.

"The generator can supply several hours of power, plus more if you keep feeding it gas."

Along with the generator, each server also has a rack-mounted UPS. But since the generator kicks in within seconds, they've never had to run for very long.

So when the data center lights go out early one morning, fish isn't worried. He counts slowly to 12. But nothing happens.

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