Google Serves Apology Sandwich Over Gmail Outage

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-08-12 Print this article Print

Google's latest Gmail outage (from 2 p.m. PDT to 4 p.m. PDT Monday) was well documented and, coming less than one week after another major outage of Gmail and Google Apps, the company felt compelled to blog about it in the form of an apology sandwich.

What's an apology sandwich? Well, the first sentence -- the bottom piece of bread -- is an apology.

Todd Jackson, Gmail product manager wrote: "Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we're really sorry."

The next layer is the meat: "The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly. Everything should be back to normal by the time you read this."

The cheese tops the meat in the form of a lot of, well, cheese about how Google has "heard loud and clear today how much people care about their Gmail accounts."

Jackson notes how he and his team read the e-mails to its support team and user group, the litany of Twitter posts and fielded phone calls from Google Apps customers and friends.

Jackson tops the apology sandwich with this piece of bread: "Again, we're sorry."

I'm not sure the apology sandwich works, but I understand it. A lot of small shops don't want to pay for Microsoft Exchange and are using free Gmail instead.

Plenty of smaller media and research companies use Gmail. Ferris Research Group uses Gmail. In the blogosphere, both GigaOm and ReadWriteWeb use Gmail. 

Om Malik was particularly flustered by the outage yesterday, so he wrote: "Given that our company relies on Google's Gmail and GTalk service, our operations came to a standstill this afternoon. We aren't a large company but the losses are very real, especially in productivity."

Malik goes on to rightly note that if even Google, which owns a reported 1 million servers, can go down, what company can remain free and clear of outages?

The answer is none. So long as we're relying on a life-sized circuit board of pipes to run our infrastructure, we will likely never see operations of 24/7.

Maybe the better question we need to start asking is not whether the Web as a platform will be totally reliable -- we know it won't -- but whether or not we want to rely entirely on the Web as a platform. And if we do, perhaps we need to get used to some downtime now and then.

What is so disconcerting to me about Google's outage is that it comes during the dead calm of August, traditionally a time when most folks go on vacation. You would think traffic to Gmail and Google Apps would be a little less. I know I didn't touch Google in July when I was on vacation.

What happens if Google Apps and Gmail crash in September? |

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