Orbitz Blames Oracle for Web Site Outage

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2003-07-17 Print this article Print

The travel site was back up in Thursday after a day-long site outage that the company pinned on Oracle's RAC technology.

The travel site Orbitz was back up in the wee hours of Thursday morning after a day-long site outage that the company pinned on Oracle Corp.s RAC (Real Application Clusters) technology. Although no customer data was lost or corrupted, the outage was the "most challenging technical issue weve ever come across" since the companys launch two years ago, according to Carol Jouzaitis, a spokeswoman for Orbitz, in Chicago. Oracle spokeswoman Kathleen Noonan said that Oracle had worked closely with its technology partners and with Orbitz to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Jouzaitis was unaware of whether Orbitz had experienced prior technical problems with Oracles RAC database technology. She was also unaware of how exactly RAC had been pinpointed as the source of the problem, rather than other technology in use at Orbitz, such as Sun Microsystems Inc. hardware or Veritas Software Corp. software. "I cant answer that," she said. "When our guys tell me that its a database issue, I trust them to know what theyre talking about. Theyre pretty smart guys."
To get the site back up, Orbitzs technical team conducted a rapid rearchitecture of the site—it took less than a day, Jouzaitis said—to shift operations off of RAC. "There were a number of considerations [that went into the decision]—anything from cost efficiencies to whatever," she said. "Yesterday it was determined that the best route for our customers, to provide even higher availability moving forward, was an architecture change." Although some news reports pointed to a bustling travel season as being at the heart of the crash, it was actually merely a typical day, traffic-wise, for the site when it went down, Jouzaitis said—neither a slow day nor a record-setting day. It was not a typical day for Oracle, however, which on Thursday was hard at work convincing PeopleSoft Inc. customers of its good intentions at a Town Hall meeting when it had to deal with this blow to its "Unbreakable" marketing claims. It was also likely an untypical day for Orbitzs brand-new chief technology officer. Orbitz on Monday announced that the company had appointed Christopher Hjelm to that position. Hjelm came to Orbitz after stints at eBay Inc., where he was senior vice president of technology. Hjelm also did a 14-year stint at Federal Express Corp. as senior vice president and chief information officer, as well as serving in executive roles at Excite@Home and Zoho Corp.
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for eWEEK.com and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on eWEEK.com, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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