Microsoft's Windows Azure, an enterprise-capable cloud platform that will eventually go head-to-head against Google Apps, experienced a 22-hour outage between March 13 and 14 that left users unable to access the early test release's applications from Friday through Saturday night.
During that time, users received messages describing applications as "stopped" or "initializing."
Despite the need for cloud computing platforms to run continuously, several companies attempting to build solutions in that space have experienced very public outages recently, including a Feb. 24 Google outage that downed Gmail and Google Apps for roughly two-and-a-half hours.
Microsoft announced that it is still trying to figure out the cause of the Azure outage, but said it would likely have results soon.
"When the whole team's back in the office on Monday, I'm sure we'll do a root cause analysis to understand exactly what went wrong and what we need to do to ensure it doesn't happen again," Steve Marx, a Microsoft employee who works on Windows Azure, said in a posting on the MSDN Forums. "Once we have that sorted out, I'll put together a summary. (Probably won't get that out until after the MIX conference next week.)"
As Microsoft's foray into the cloud computing world, Azure will eventually go head-to-head against both Amazon.com and Google. Originally rolled out on Oct 27, 2008, at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Azure relies on Microsoft's distributed data centers to deliver SAAS (software as a service) to users.
At the time of its initial rollout, Gartner analyst Ray Valdes told eWEEK that, with regard to Azure and cloud computing, "Microsoft will play a major role over time because of its tremendous market footprint and technical resources."
"There are many enterprises that consider themselves Microsoft shops that have people that only know Microsoft tools and APIs," Valdes added. "Amazon and Google have been chipping away at these, but Microsoft is firmly entrenched."
According to news reports, Azure will be generally available before the next Professional Developers Conference in November.
"We're still in the early days of exactly how cloud computing is being defined and delivered, and also what companies are expecting out of these services," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in an interview.
As to whether companies will regard something like the Microsoft outage as a potential deal killer for cloud computing, King cites a briefing he had with Amazon when the company launched its own cloud computing service. "At one point during the briefing, they said they'd guarantee 99.99 percent availability. Their comment was they believed a significant population of businesses didn't want to pay the price for five-nines [99.999] capability."
In other words, if cloud computing outages extend into the more refined version of these companies' platforms, it may become an expected-and accepted-part of enterprise life.