a central point for collection of information as it relates to cloud computing in the government
October 12, 2009 at 9:18 am #82629
When the Cloud Fails: T-Mobile, Microsoft Lose Sidekick Customer Data
By Om Malik
Saturday, October 10, 2009
26 comments | 95 tweets retweet
If you’ve ever been curious about what would happen when a cloud service fails, then you don’t have to wonder any longer. Earlier today, customers of T-Mobile and Sidekick data services provider Danger, a subsidiary of Microsoft, lost access to all their data. Some believe that this data wipeout is because of a botched upgrade. Why it happened matters little to those who are unlikely to get their data back, according to a note posted on T-Mobile forums.
Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device — such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos — that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low.
Danger’s service works in a very simple fashion. The devices are in constant communication with a server which does everything from checking email to fetching web pages and maintaining contact with all the folks we know on instant-messaging networks. It also keeps copies of other communications (such as text messages), address books and calendars. It stores photos on its servers as well. In short, what we have is a device that is a combination of a cell phone and an almost dumb terminal.
This wipeout reminds me of “The Bourne Identity,” where Jason Bourne spends the entire length of the book trying to find out his real identity because his memory has been wiped out due to an accident. T-Mobile and Danger have done something like that. By losing the servers, what they have done is the equivalent of wiping out the collective memory of its customers.
T-Mobile is advising customers not to reset their device by removing their batteries or letting their batteries drain out, because if that happens, then all the information that is local to the device is going to be wiped out as well.
This development highlights the many risks we face as we romp into our cloud-centric future. And it’s just one of the many setbacks we have faced in recent months. The Google Mail outage seems like a bad dream compared with this nightmare. After all, Google didn’t actually lose our emails. But in this case, many may have no option to go back to square one — and start over.
© 2009 The GigaOM Network
October 12, 2009 at 9:20 am #82633
Sidekick failure rumors point fingers at outsourcing, lack of backups
by Chris Ziegler posted Oct 11th 2009
Backing up your personal PC to external media might still be a novel concept for some, but any IT manager fresh out of school can tell you that regularly backing up mission-critical servers -- and storing those backups in multiple physical locations -- isn't merely important, it's practically non-negotiable, and it only becomes that much more critical before undertaking hardware maintenance. Alleged details on the events leading up to Danger's doomsday scenario are starting to come out of the woodwork, and it all paints a truly embarrassing picture: Microsoft, possibly trying to compensate for lost and / or laid-off Danger employees, outsources an upgrade of its Sidekick SAN to Hitachi, which -- for reasons unknown -- fails to make a backup before starting. Long story short, the upgrade runs into complications, data is lost, and without a backup to revert to, untold thousands of Sidekick users get shafted in an epic way rarely seen in an age of well-defined, well-understood IT strategies.
The coming weeks are going to be trying times for both Microsoft and T-Mobile, a sideline player in this carnage that ultimately still shoulders responsibility for taking users' cash month after month and keeping tabs on the robustness of its partners' workflows. We're betting that heads are going to roll at both of these companies, formal investigations are going to be waged, users are going to be compensated in big ways, lawsuits are going to be filed, and textbooks could very well be modified to make sure that lessons are learned for the next generation of college grads tasked with keeping clouds running. Why there weren't any backups -- even older ones -- that could've been used as a restore point is totally unclear, so we're hoping Microsoft has the stones to come clean for the benefit of an entire industry that wants to understand how to make sure this never happens again.
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October 12, 2009 at 9:22 am #82631
from Internet Evolution
Sidekick/Danger Failure is a Disaster, But Not For Clouds
Over the weekend, out of the mainstream press cycle, Microsoft and T-Mobile acknowledged that the server in Microsoft's Danger group earlier in the week would like result in total data loss for users impacted by the failure.
Some industry watchers immediately headlined this as a failure of the cloud, (See "When the Cloud Fails"). As more information comes to light, however, it becomes clearer that the failure had nothing to do with the cloud (See "Sidekick failure rumors point fingers at outsourcing, lack of backups").
In fact, it turns out that the Danger service for Sidekick wasn't cloud-based -- just a hosted service.
If the service had been cloud-based, the disposition of any one SAN would not have mattered with respect to data reliability and availability. Data would have been replicated via abstracted storage services over a network of physical and logical systems.
Herein is the rub. Much like vendors started applying the term to CRM for any system that touched any customer information, Cloud Computing is applied to any Internet-accessible service. Cloud Computing has a perceived marketing value. Eager product managers, anxious to cash in, seem to label anything that runs on the Internet as Cloud Computing.
In August 2008, David Chappell and Associates released a report entitled "A Short Introduction to Cloud Platforms: An Enterprise-Oriented View" (PDF). Given the report was sponsored by Microsoft, we presume it represents Microsoft's view of cloud computing. The report identifies Software as a Service (SaaS) as a cloud platform with this definition:
"A SaaS application runs entirely in the cloud (that is, on servers at an Internet-accessible service provider)"
Using this definition, the single Exchange server sitting idle in my computer room is a cloud platform.
Microsoft is defining "cloud" in terms of accessibility over the Internet, rather than the structure of the services provided. For serious providers of cloud-based services, cloud platforms abstract the application or platform over logical and physical servers and services. Redundancy exists by design, for backup and availability, as should scalability for capacity and performance. Expect Microsoft to be touting these capabilities as Azure comes to market.
Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to promote its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) as a cloud-based solution under its "Software + Services" strategy. But Microsoft readily tells its partners that BPOS is merely hosted versions of its server applications on virtualized servers on shared hardware. Services and servers are provisioned to be location-specific and lack redundancy, with no contingency beyond 30 days of email.
True cloud providers, and the tech media, should be driving more clarity about cloud computing and cloud-based services. Vendors' claims should be challenged so that buyers can make informed decisions.
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