Microsoft Cops to Cloud Computing Platform Outage

What happens when you put your business in the cloud and then the cloud goes down? An undisclosed number of Microsoft Online Services customers were confronted with just that problem for two hours on Monday.

Microsoft is apologizing to customers for an outage that kept some of its cloud computing users from being able to access their enterprise applications for more than two hours on Monday.

"On Aug. 23, from 5:30 a.m. [to] 7:45 a.m. PDT, some customers in North America experienced intermittent access to our datacenter. The outage was caused by a network issue that is now fully resolved, and service has returned to normal," a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) spokesperson said in an email to

Around 7 a.m. PDT on Monday, Microsoft sent out an Online Services Notification alert that said it was looking into "a performance issue which may impact connectivity to the North American data center." A second notification announced at around 8:45 a.m. that service had been restored to affected users.

"During the duration of the issue, customers were updated regularly via our normal communication channels. We sincerely apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this incident may have caused them," the Microsoft spokesperson added. The spokesperson declined to say where the affected datacenter is located.

Microsoft, like practically every major enterprise software vendor, has been preaching the benefits of the cloud. Last month, Microsoft touted its successful addition of cloud-based apps and environments to its better-known lineup of deployed software, such as Office and Windows. It also trumpeted client wins like Dow Chemical and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, which it signed to deals for Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), a set of enterprise applications delivered via Microsoft's cloud infrastructure. The suite provides users with hosted versions of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, Exchange Hosted Services, and Office Communications Online.

As it turns out, however, Monday's outage impacted users of BPOS, which has emerged one of Microsoft's most popular cloud services.

Also impacted, according to the notification alert, were Microsoft's Online Services Administration Center, Sign In Application, My Company Portal, and Customer Portal.

Microsoft has not said how many users or customer companies were impacted by the outage.

However, Microsoft Server and Tools Division President Bob Muglia said in June at Microsoft's TechEd conference that it has signed up some "40 million paid users of Microsoft Online Services across 9000 business customers and more than 500 government entities."

The news also highlights one of the chief worries discouraging enterprise IT executives from shifting their infrastructures to the cloud: complete reliance on a third party to ensure application availability. Along with the periodic bouts of downtime suffered by Microsoft, Amazon, Google and a slew of other major and up-and-coming cloud players have experienced brief outages that had their cloud and software-as-a-service offerings offline for hours.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

Tags: cloud computing, Microsoft, outage, cloud content management, BPOS

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