Having a cow over Gmail just misses the point

Google's early-morning glitch was good for a few headlines, but the real news is how rare these cloud-computing outages have become.

A big outage at Google Tuesday. Things go dark early while most of the U.S. is sleeping. Still, the Internet is without borders and so the glitch leaves millions of people who use Google Web mail and Google Apps, high and dry.

It was mild melodrama for a few hours but things returned to normal after a few hours. It's still unclear what happened, though Google says it's investigating the problem.

Truth be told, the walls of Jericho did not crumble, though the outage nonetheless triggered the (now thoroughly predictable) hand-wringing and bloviating from the usual cast of characters. Amusing to watch, but after this incident, there's also the wider context to consider.

Any outages are embarrassing. But while Gmail did crash a few times in 2008, this is the first time the service has gone down in quite a while. (As my colleague Stephen Shankland noted , Google extends a guarantee to corporate customers paying for any of its business Apps services, which rely on the cloud. The promise: they will be able to access Gmail at least 99.9 percent of the time every month. If not, Google pays them a penalty fee. So far Google says it hasn't fallen below that mark.)

If these sorts of outages occurred with more regularity, I suppose that would seriously retard cloud computing's growth. Google and Salesforce.com and Amazon and any other purveyors of cloud-based services obviously cringe when their connections fail. Not to underplay the anguish customers and vendors find themselves dealing with, but the real news here is how rare these cloud-computing outages have become.

A few years ago it seemed that eBay's Web site was seizing up all of the time. The reality was less severe but merchants and bidders would scream bloody murder. At the same time, eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, and Buy.com were dealing with repeated denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. Things got so bad that some even feared for the future of e-commerce.

We now know how the story turned out. Fact is that there are no 100 percent guarantees anymore, not in a world in which applications increasingly get hosted on the Internet. When things go bump in the night, as they inevitably will, there is going to be a commotion, albeit a temporary one. Get over it, already.

This is computing, after all.

 

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