Feeds

HOT SWEATY RACKS blamed for Outlook.com, Hotmail MELTDOWN

Firmware cock-up cooked servers in data-centre oven

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Wanna keep your data for 1,000 YEARS? No? Hard luck, HDS wants you to anyway
Combine Blu-ray and M-DISC and you get this monster
US boffins demo 'twisted radio' mux
OAM takes wireless signals to 32 Gbps
Apple flops out 2FA for iCloud in bid to stop future nude selfie leaks
Millions of 4chan users howl with laughter as Cupertino slams stable door
Students playing with impressive racks? Yes, it's cluster comp time
The most comprehensive coverage the world has ever seen. Ever
Run little spreadsheet, run! IBM's Watson is coming to gobble you up
Big Blue's big super's big appetite for big data in big clouds for big analytics
Seagate's triple-headed Cerberus could SAVE the DISK WORLD
... and possibly bring us even more HAMR time. Yay!
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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.