Wind Shear Hits Cloud Computing

By Tim Mather
October 13, 2009 | Comments: 2

Virtual wind shear hit consumer cloud computing this last weekend. Caught in the microburst was Microsoft's subsidiary, Danger. Reports have confirmed that Danger has crashed and burned - badly. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Danger's servers crashed and their customers got burned.

Danger provides a smartphone service with Sidekicks that many customers regarded as a very worthwhile feature: immediate and automatic back-up of personal data on a smartphone to Danger's servers. With the high rates of theft and loss of mobile phones, Danger's service appealed to many customers, including many T-Mobile customers. (T-Mobile is apparently Danger's largest customer.) With the crash of its servers over the weekend though, Danger has warned its customers that their data on Danger's systems has been lost, and that customers should not turn off their smartphones, which would cause all copies of their personal data to be lost. So much for the service of immediate and automatic back-up of personal data.

As a result of the Danger outage, T-Mobile has announced that its customers can give up their devices and their contracts without penalty - oops! And, if customer's were forced to hard reboot their phones already (and lost their data), then they get one month's credit for service for their lost data! What the value of Microsoft's $500 million acquisition of Danger in February 2008 is now is questionable.

There are no winners here - only losers. And, one of those losers is cloud computing itself. Yes, this was only public cloud computing (as opposed to private cloud computing), and yes it was only consumer (as opposed to enterprise) cloud computing, and yes this was only one company and one service. But, the primary allure of consumer cloud computing is availability, and availability just took a massive hit with Danger's server crash over the weekend. No doubt that other cloud computing companies will come under renewed scrutiny over their availability after this incident. Smaller outages, such as the numerous outages that Amazon Web Services, Google, Twitter, and others have suffered, will no longer be shown much tolerance by customers.

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This is a good example of the marketing hype surrounding the clouds not stating that virtual cloud infrastructure is not a magic bullet to the single point of failure scenario.

The clud provider becomes the single point of failure and failures affect more customers more drastically. Customers seem to have this faith that because an organisation built a cloud, then surely they must have full redundancy...

Wait till the clouds to attacking and hacking other clouds. Where there are clouds, there can be storms. Could a hurricane be a brewing?

It will be interesting to know what caused the crash. I guess it is difficult to conclude that cloud computing per-se is responsible for the outage. Reasons could range from overheating of server to absence of following disaster recovery processes. Time can tell...Hail the Clouds!

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