Should You Be Concerned? A List of Recent Cloud Computing Failures – Intuit Goes Down

UPDATE: June 2nd, Intuit Goes Down…

Based on a recent visitor tip to CloudTweaks.

FYI — Intuit is in the midst of another payroll server outage right now (June 2, 2011) and it has been going on since noon yesterday, June 1st.  Hundreds of small business owners are outraged over the lack of service by Intuit and the fact that their planned Friday payroll will not be available as a result of Intuit’s lack of sufficient disaster planning.

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In the second and concluding part of this article, I look into some of the recent cloud computing failures that have called into question the much-touted reliability of this emergent technology. For the first part, see Should You Be Concerned? A List of Recent Cloud Computing Failures – I.

1. Hosting.com (June 1, 2010)

Hosting.com, in their words, “offers managed dedicated hosting solutions, including domain name sales, to businesses.” However, their claim of providing “always-on” service suffered a blow when their data center at New Jersey went down for two hours. The company attributed the cause to a software bug in a Cisco switch.

2. Twitter (June 11, 2010)

Twitter needs no introduction. Also, sporadic failures, usually lasting a few minutes, are nothing new for this site that made “microblogging” part of the popular lexicon. However, in June last year, this problem became increasingly acute because of what the company described as the Soccer World Cup phenomenon, when traffic was much higher than normal. Again, this raised questions about cloud computing’s scalability attribute.

3. Skype (December 22, 2010)

The problem is best described by what the company posted on its official blog:

Skype isn’t a network like a conventional phone or IM network — instead, it relies on millions of individual connections between computers and phones to keep things up and running. Some of these computers are what we call ‘supernodes’ – they act a bit like phone directories for Skype. If you want to talk to someone, and your Skype app can’t find them immediately (for example, because they’re connecting from a different location or from a different device) your computer or phone will first try to find a supernode to figure out how to reach them.

Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.”

4. Hotmail (December 30, 2010)

This was a precursor to the bigger outage that was to happen to its biggest competitor two months later. Information from around 17,000 user accounts was suddenly deleted, and it took Microsoft two days to restore normalcy. Improper load balancing between servers was blamed.

5. Gmail (February 27, 2011)

When the most popular email service in the world goes down, even if for only a few hours, lots of people are affected and the news spreads fast. Also, the inevitable questions about cloud computing’s reliability crops up soon enough. This issue was covered in an earlier article (See: Gmail Outage – Is Cloud Computing To Blame? ).

6. Intuit (March 28, 2011)

Intuit is a company that develops financial and tax preparation software and related services for small businesses, accountants and individuals. Two months ago, several of its popular services like QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Online Payroll and Intuit Payments Solutions went down in a cloud computing outage that the company blamed on faulty maintenance, effectively human error, much like Amazon. Unfortunately for Intuit, this was the second such issue within a year, a similar problem having occurred in June 2010.

7. Epsilon (April 1, 2011)

This was covered in an article here (See: What Effect Will the Epsilon Data Theft have on Cloud Computing?). Epsilon, a personal mailman of big companies (in other words, one who managed their email communications), communicated that there had been a data breach where emails and names of their customers’ customers were compromised.

In conclusion, there’s no denying that errors occur, equipment goes down and technology fails. However, as I have stated before, cloud computing as a technology is still in the growing stage; consequently, some problems are to be expected. The best way to react is to use them as learning experiences and coming up with industry best practices to prevent such occurrences in future.

By Sourya Biswas

sourya

Sourya Biswas is a former risk analyst who has worked with several financial organizations of international repute, besides being a freelance journalist with several articles published online. After 6 years of work, he has decided to pursue further studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he has completed his MBA. He holds a Bachelors in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Information Technology. He is also a member of high-IQ organizations Mensa and Triple Nine Society and has been a prolific writer to CloudTweaks over the years... http://www.cloudtweaks.com/author/sourya/

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