A cautionary utility computing tale

A cautionary utility computing tale

Summary: Charlie Wood is like a pioneer trekking across the frontier in a covered wagon, but the dangers aren't an untamed land, broken wheels or hostiles. Charlie, who runs the startup Spanning Partners, which helps companies RSS-enable applications, is on the frontier of using the software-as-a-service, utility computing model to run his business and is coming face-to-face with the unreliability of the on demand services he depends upon.

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TOPICS: Salesforce.com
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Charlie Wood is like a pioneer trekking across the frontier in a covered wagon, but the dangers aren't an untamed land, broken wheels or hostiles. Charlie, who runs the startup Spanning Partners, which helps companies RSS-enable applications, is on the frontier of using the software-as-a-service, utility computing model to run his business and is coming face-to-face with the unreliability of the on demand services he depends upon. In his blog, Charlie writes:

Yesterday Amazon's S3 service suffered an outage that lasted more than long enough to miss the company's self-imposed goal of 99.99% availability, at least for the next couple of months. Last November, Google Calendar was unavailable for the better part of a day. And famously, Salesforce.com suffered a string of outages this time last year. Unfortunately, my business relies on all three of these services.

We're clearly still in the very early days of utility computing, but reliability is an issue that will have to be addressed sooner or later. Ultimately, it comes down to accountability. Bad things will happen. The question is how the vendor will respond.

When Amazon's S3 service tanked, an Amazon Web Services engineer posted a message to a discussion group with an acknowledgment and a lame apology. When Google Calendar went south, they gave much the same response. When Salesforce.com fell over, they spent $50M and an entire release cycle fixing the problems.
Certainly, the higher cost of conventional hardware and software solutions is consideration, and those systems are not immune to failures and excessive bloating. But the SaaS, utility computing model has prove that it can be more reliable, responsive, secure, lean and cost effective to replace what came before...  

Topic: Salesforce.com

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4 comments
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  • A Shirky

    And in-house software never goes down?

    I'd be more impressed with this as an "analysis" if did some work to compare the reliability of the two models rather than pointing at the transparent public failures of Saas/Utility computing and suggesting it means something.
    Hamish.MacEwan
    • A good point...

      ... when you say

      [i]"And in-house software never goes down?"[/i]

      But I think that SaaS needs to be set up in such a way as to assume that failure will happen and to address it. The obvious choice is that the software should replicate on two completely different providers preferably in different cities/countries and the end user should have more than one internet/broadband pipe into their business.

      SaaS should be thinking that way as a matter of conducting normal business. Failure WILL happen.
      bportlock
  • Are Amazon & Salesforce appropriate examples?

    Gents: perhaps I don't understand the examples shown. Is it not fair to say that other than You Tube, the sites you illustrate are among the highest traffic sites on the net? Are not these outages routine? And not much of a reflection of the state of utility computing?

    Further as Mr. Berlin noted in this space recently, isn't it small businesses that should be moving to the utility model as most SMB's have data needs that are but a tiny fraction of the models noted in the piece?

    Thanks for any comment.

    mike whatley
    altadena, ca
    mewcomm2
    • I couldn't agree more....

      ... that's why my company is developing a very cut down of CRM and accounts specifically targetted at very small businesses.
      bportlock