BlackBerry Suffers Outage as DOD Approves BlackBerry, Samsung Use

BlackBerry's announcement that the Defense Department has approved BlackBerry 10 devices for use was overshadowed by a three-hour outage.

The BlackBerry network suffered a particularly ill-timed outage early May 3.

In March, BlackBerry had its besmirched name cleared, when the Department of Defense responded to reports that it was ending its relationship with the ailing phone maker, known for its security and stability but lack of consumer appeal. It wasn't leaving BlackBerry, the DOD clarified, but moving to a mixed-device environment.

It was particularly bad luck, then, that the outage overlapped BlackBerry's announcement that the DOD had approved its more-consumer-friendly BlackBerry 10 smartphones, PlayBook tablets and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 for use on DOD networks.

"BlackBerry 10 is ideal for our government customers because it offers a rich, highly responsive mobile computing experience, along with BlackBerry's proven and validated security model—a combination that's unmatched in the industry," Scott Totzke, senior vice president of security at BlackBerry, said in a May 2 statement.

"Hope the Pentagon doesn't mind the occasional outage," came the inevitable Tweet, from Financial Times writer Daniel Thomas, with others offering variations on the theme.

BlackBerry users in the U.K. reported an outage shortly after beginning the workday Friday. Around three hours later, BlackBerry confirmed the problem on Twitter.

"Some of our customers may be experiencing issues with BlackBerry services. We are investigating and apologize for any inconvenience," it said.

BlackBerry told The Register in a statement: "We can confirm that our technical teams have addressed the issue, and BlackBerry services are returning to normal levels. We apologize to customers for any inconvenience. We take all service issues—no matter how small—very seriously and through constant monitoring and investigation we aim to ensure our networks meet customers' expectations."

About 90 minutes after its first Tweet, BlackBerry announced, "All BlackBerry services are returning to normal levels. Apologies to any customers who experienced issues earlier."

Both Tweets came from Donny H., a community manager on the BlackBerry site.

New Delhi-based tech writer Prasanto K. Roy Tweeted that the outage lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes, and Airtel Dehli BlackBerry users should restart their handsets.

Other reports said that Vodafone and O2 users were also affected.

In still more bad news for BlackBerry, the DOD the same day approved Samsung's KNOX solution for secure bring your own device (BYOD) deployment. Developed by the National Security Agency (NSA), it includes "integrity management services" in both the hardware and software layers.

"KNOX enables existing Android ecosystem applications to automatically gain enterprise integration and validated, robust security with zero change to the application source code," Samsung said in a Feb. 25 statement introducing the solution. "KNOX relieves application developers from the burden of developing individual enterprise features such as FIPS-compliant (Federal Information Processing Standard-compliant) VPN, on-device encryption, Enterprise Single Sign-On (SSO), Active Directory support and smart card-based multi-factor authentication."

In October 2011, Samsung also introduced a Samsung Approved for Enterprise (SAFE) program, offering what it called a "higher industry standard for devices designed for enterprise users."

When eWEEK asked BlackBerry's Totzke, during an April interview, whether Samsung's security solutions were on par with BlackBerry's, he replied, "I don't look at our competing solutions."

Today, it's hard not to compare them.