Can Microsoft Azure’s Compute Disruption Spoil the Cloud Party?

At a time when almost all big or small organization is either joined or looking forward to embrace cloud computing technology, the latest episode of global software major Microsoft Azure’s almost day long disruption on 31st October 2013, raises many questions on the reliability and resiliency of cloud as more than a serious technology of choice for enterprise.

At 2:35 a.m. UTC (7:35 p.m. PDT) the company said:

We are experiencing an issue with Compute in North Central US, South Central US, North Europe, Southeast Asia, West Europe, East Asia, East US and West US. We are actively investigating this issue and assessing its impact to our customers. Further updates will be published to keep you apprised of the impact. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes our customers.

Interestingly, the issue impacted the swap deployment feature of service management within Azure platform. As a self sustaining cloud computing ecosystem, Azure offers a staging environment to let users test their applications, processes, systems, sub-systems and also a production environment that is divided by the virtual IP addresses used to access them.

As only the swap deployment feature of Azure was affected, existing applications continued to work, but new code could not be deployed to production until the swap deployment feature was restored.

Even though this incident did not affect the Indian region, it is surely prompting partners as well as IT leaders to seriously look at reliability of cloud solutions. “We have been selling Microsoft’s Azure for our customers and it is quite well accepted in the market. But something like this would surely push us to ask questions on reliability of cloud. Even though, the disruption was not big in nature, the big question is how could this disruption cross multiple boundaries?,” asks a New Delhi based big IT and communications solution reseller on conditions of anonymity.

On the other hand, an IT leader from a Mumbai based big manufacturing oriented enterprise has asked similar question and puts the blame on big amounts of data being circulated through data centers. “We have complete trust on cloud computing and virtualization. But this is a fact that today there is a big rush towards putting everything on the cloud. And this simply means that there is more data driven strain being put on the data centers and servers. There is little doubt about cloud as it is proving to be a real advantage on IT side. But data centers need to be better equipped to handle such data outages and create better reliability,” he adds on.

It is important to understand that ever since the launch of Azure in India in the year 2010, Microsoft has pushed this cloud offering to target customers in the manufacturing, banking, insurance, finance, retail, telecom, and media and entertainment verticals and seek growth with the help of cloud computing. The company is also relying a lot on its set of cloud partners to achieve this growth as well.

Microsoft Windows Azure is positioned as a cloud platform that enables its global customers to build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers.

Just to understand the size of Microsoft Azure’s penetration at the enterprise level, industry experts claim that about 50 percent of Fortune 500 organizations globally, are using Windows Azure for offerings cloud services such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), development and testing of their applications, big data solutions and Web applications, storage, backup and recovery and data integration. Additionally, Microsoft is also working with a community of more than 1 million developers in India.

Even though, this incident was not big enough to disrupt applications at the end customer front, still it has to be probed further to understand the real cause of such outage in the world’s biggest software organization. Owing to its big cost saving advantages, Cloud holds huge potential for the enterprise, but at the same time, as mentioned by experts, global data centers would need to inject more resiliencies in order to deliver on the trust and reliability for their customers.