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Hitachi Data Systems fingered in Sidekick disaster

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It appears that the direct cause of the Sidekick data loss may have been storage area network remedial work outsourced to Hitachi Data Systems.

A significant outage at Microsoft's Danger subsidiary, which stores data from T-Mobile mobile phone users, caused a huge amount of users' data to be lost, probably irretrievably. If so this is a damaging blow to confidence in cloud data services for consumers for both T-Mobile and Microsoft.

Danger, a company responsible for the software and services powering many popular consumer handsets, was bought by Microsoft in February, 2008, and became a part of its Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) team. Microsoft said at the time that Danger "provides services that allow people to keep in touch, stay organised and keep informed while on the go through real-time mobile messaging, social networking services and other applications ... Applications on Danger-powered handsets include HTML Web browsing, instant messaging, games, multimedia, social networking, Web e-mail and personal information management applications."

Much user data is stored in a phone's DRAM. When the phone is turned off it is synchronised with that held on the Danger IT infrastructure where it is stored for use when the phone is turned on again.

T-Mobile has stated: "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."

Reuters is reporting that Microsoft/Danger had a complicated server failure that damaged its main and backup databases which stored Sidekick users' data.

It is being reported, on Engadget for example, that Microsoft/Danger contracted Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) to do remedial work on the Danger Server/SAN infrastructure and that, during the work, the server/SAN infrastructure failed in some way. There was however, no backed-up or replicated data set and so the data appears to be lost for good.

It must have been a very peculiar outage, that wiped data off all the disk drives in a SAN though, outlandish even. What kind of server or SAN crash would actually delete terabytes of data on a SAN's disk drives? In theory the vast majority of the data ought still be on the SAN's drives and, logically, recoverable.

If the data is lost for good then this is an almost bizarre circumstance and the idea that Microsoft could appear so remiss in not looking after users' data will not engender trust in its ability to be a reliable supplier of cloud-based data services. T-Mobile Sidekick users are said to incandescent with anger at the loss of their data from what should be a bullet-proof telco-type service.

T-Mobile has suspended sales of Sidekick phones in the USA according to CNET. HDS' involvement, if any, remains to be clarified and the company offered this comment: "Hitachi Data Systems is investigating the cause of the problem, which has not been identified at this time. I cannot comment any further. Hitachi Data Systems is a trusted storage partner to customers around the globe, and it is our commitment to deliver on high standards of customer service and support excellence to T-Mobile." ®

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