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Microsoft BPOS Downtime Illustrates the Risks of Cloud Computing

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 05-16-2011 Print
Microsoft's cloud outage shows that while the cloud offers businesses some noted advantages -- chief among them, removing the need to maintain on-site IT infrastructure -- it also comes with certain risks.

Customers of Microsoft's BPOS service last week found themselves cut off from email.

On May 10, malformed email traffic sparked a growing message backlog that impacted some customers for up to six to nine hours. The issue occurred again May 12, compounded by a separate but related problem that led to customer delays as long as three hours.

Then, just to top off what was already a stressful week for Microsoft's BPOS engineering teams, a failure in the Domain Name Service hosting mail.microsoftonline.com stopped users from accessing Outlook Web Access hosted in the Americas. That issue also affected Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync devices.

Microsoft solved the issues and issued a mea culpa. "I'd like to apologize to you, our customers and partners, for the obvious inconveniences these issues caused," Dave Thompson, corporate vice president of Microsoft Online Services, wrote in a May 12 posting on the Microsoft Online Services Team Blog. "We know that email is a critical part of your business communication, and my team and I fully recognize our responsibility as your partner and service provider."

In the wake of the issues, Microsoft has taken steps to improve its communications with users. "Effective today, we updated our communications procedures to be more extensive and timely," Thompson wrote. "The primary mechanism for communicating to our customers on issues has been and will continue to be the Service Health Dashboard."

He also insisted that the issues gripping BPOS haven't affected Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-based productivity platform that recently launched its public beta, or other company services. (Office 365 is effectively the rebranding of BPOS.)

But the outages also raise some key questions about the cloud.

Microsoft is "all in" with regard to cloud services. Indeed, CEO Steve Ballmer and other executives have spent much of the past year taking every opportunity to tout the company's upcoming subscription platforms as the wave of its future. Office 365, Windows Azure and other platforms represent Microsoft's attempts to expand its revenue base beyond traditional, desktop-bound software such as Windows and Office.

For more, read the eWEEK article: Microsoft's BPOS Service Outage Illustrates Cloud Conundrum.


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