Feeds

HOT SWEATY RACKS blamed for Outlook.com, Hotmail MELTDOWN

Firmware cock-up cooked servers in data-centre oven

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft has admitted a dodgy firmware upgrade cooked its servers and knocked its Hotmail and Outlook.com email services offline for 16 hours.

In a postmortem examination of the disaster, the Windows 8 giant said a software upgrade for its data centre equipment - an update that had worked successfully in the past - failed unexpectedly on the afternoon of Tuesday, 12 March. The cock-up resulted in a “rapid and substantial temperature spike” in the hall housing the websites' servers.

Microsoft did not say in which of its many data centres the machines are based. The company's online storage service Skydrive was also affected but brought back online faster than its web siblings.

The Hotmail and Outlook.com rack-mounted computers weren't the only systems getting hot under the collar: irate users vented on Twitter their displeasure at being unable to access their emails for nearly a full day.

Microsoft veep Arthur de Haan said the soaring mercury triggered unspecified “safeguards” in the data centre that shut down the sweating servers before the fault turned really nasty - albeit without switching to the backup:

These safeguards prevented access to mailboxes housed on these servers and also prevented any other pieces of our infrastructure to automatically failover and allow continued access. This area of the datacenter houses parts of the Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, and SkyDrive infrastructure, and so some people trying to access those services were impacted.

De Haan’s analysis continued in torturously overworked prose to explain that, in non-technical terms, some techies tried turning it off and back on again to fix it. The exec himself put it thus: “There was a mix of infrastructure software and human intervention that was needed to bring the core infrastructure back online."

His explanation was infused with standard-issue corporate-grade apologies and attempts to play down the impact of the outage. De Haan said the vast majority of Hotmail, Outlook.com and Skydrive users weren’t affected, adding that Microsoft “sincerely apologises" and takes any downtime “very seriously”.

The problem hit Hotmail accounts being migrated to Outlook.com and is the second such failure in less than two months. Microsoft’s goal is to transfer all 360 million Hotmail inboxes by the summer. Hotmail is still the world's largest free email service.

The fact that a regular firmware update had near-disastrous consequences should raise a few eyebrows: after all, cloud-based services are, by design, supposed to keep ticking even if they take a kicking without outsiders noticing. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ellison: Sparc M7 is Oracle's most important silicon EVER
'Acceleration engines' key to performance, security, Larry says
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
Hey, what's a STORAGE company doing working on Internet-of-Cars?
Boo - it's not a terabyte car, it's just predictive maintenance and that
Troll hunter Rackspace turns Rotatable's bizarro patent to stone
News of the Weird: Screen-rotating technology declared unpatentable
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.