Microsoft is quickly having to come to grips with one of the major drawbacks of its "cloud-first" strategy: service outages.
Since Aug. 15, the company has been beset with outages affecting its Azure cloud computing platform, which powers the company's growing infrastructure- and software-as-a-service portfolio. The interruptions culminated on Aug. 18 with widespread reports of inaccessible services.
On Aug. 15, some customers were greeted with a 500 Internal Server Error message when they tried to log into the Azure Management Portal. In Japan, customers serviced by the company's Japan East facility reported issues accessing all Azure services.
Microsoft resolved those issues, but trouble would soon rear its head.
Just before 1 p.m. ET on Aug. 18, Microsoft confirmed that multiple Azure offerings were suffering a "full service interruption." The long list of affected services, according to a company bulletin, included "Cloud Services, Virtual Machines, Websites, Automation, Service Bus, Backup, Site Recovery, HDInsight, Mobile Services, StorSimple and possible other Azure Services in multiple regions." By that evening, Azure's problems had been resolved.
The outages occurred just as the company rolled out its cloud-based big data solution in two additional regions, calling into question the cloud's suitability for mission-critical enterprise workloads.
On Aug. 15, Microsoft announced general availability of HDInsight in the Japan West and US Central regions, "joining US North Central, US South Central, and Asia Pacific East," stated the company in its announcement. The expansion enables area customers to "host HDInsight in those regions with the same service-level agreement coverage available in other regions around the world," asserted the company.
The service, officially launched in late October, allows customers to quickly spin up clusters based on Apache Hadoop, the leading open-source big data processing platform, on Microsoft's cloud. "Microsoft recognizes Hadoop as a standard and is investing to ensure that it's an integral part of our enterprise offerings," stated Quentin Clark, Microsoft Data Platform Group vice president, during the HDInsight launch.
As of Aug. 19, Azure's service dashboard shows the all-clear, after lingering issues that affected customers in East Asia and in Western and North European regions were patched up.
On June 24, several Exchange Online customers were unable to retrieve emails or update their calendars during an Azure service disruption that hit squarely in the middle of the workday for many U.S. firms. A day earlier, the company's cloud-based communications platform Lync Online suffered from some unplanned downtime.
Cloud outages may be a fact of life, but Microsoft has reason to limit their impact, if not attempt to avoid them altogether.
Business cloud revenue is up for Microsoft, reported CEO Satya Nadella during the recent release of the company's fiscal 2014 fourth-quarter earnings. "I'm proud that our aggressive move to the cloud is paying off—our commercial cloud revenue doubled again this year to a $4.4 billion annual run rate," he said in a statement.
Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner added that his company was "thrilled with the tremendous momentum of our cloud offerings, with Office 365 and Azure both growing over 100 percent again."