Do our Operating Systems need Search Failover?

Do our Operating Systems need Search Failover?

Summary: Outages of search providers can create huge amounts of havoc. But can we build functionality into our OSes to mitigate the problems?


Outages of search providers can create huge amounts of havoc. But can we build functionality into our OSes to mitigate the problems?

As I write this, Google has failwhaled. The cause of the problem was initally presumed to be at the AT&T Tier 1 ISP level, causing huge amounts of packet loss. (EDIT: This ended up being explained as a routing problem by Google) The net effect of this is that it's resulted in a crappy day for a lot of us that depend on GMail and use their Google's search services for just about, well, everything.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

When Google goes down, lots of stuff breaks. Not just Google's own apps like GMail and Google Talk, but also applications like Firefox, which use Google as it's default search provider.

Default search providers are easy enough to fix in browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer (Which uses Windows Live Search) but it requires manual user intervention. However, other applications use Google and its search services. In the event of an apocalyptic business continuity event for a major search provider like Google, how would we as Internet users get all our search services on all our apps working on an alternate provider quickly?

It seems to me that we need some sort of "Search Failover" capability in our desktop OSes and mobile devices -- such as a master configuration file which a number of search and Internet service API providers can be plugged into that monitors the health of these providers and would automatically adjust settings globally across all applications that use them in the event of a major outage event. For example, if Google goes down, the configuration would automatically switch to Yahoo or MSN Live Search, depending on the user's desired configuration. It would also notify the user when the outage occurs and switch back to the original default search provider when the outage is over.

Obviously, Search Failover would not mitigate major systemic outages such as a Tier 1 ISP issue that would affect multiple search services that use it as a bandwidth provider, but presumably all major search providers are procuring connectivity from more than one Tier 1 ISP.

Do we need Search Provider Failover capabilities in our OSes and devices? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Topics: Telcos, Browser, Google, Operating Systems, Outage


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Update your post Jason, it wasn't AT&T fault

  • RE: Do our Operating Systems need Search Failover?

    If this existed, I'm sure someone will find a reason to sue Microsoft cause one Search provider is listed higher than the other.

    Oh I long for the glory days of Microsoft's monopoly. Back when they bundled Internet explorer, Media Player, and windows update together. They were on a roll. Now it seems every time they try to roll out something new, there is a new lawsuit waiting for them.
  • little dropdown box in firefox search

    If Google is down, you click on the little dropdown in the search box and pick another engine. It actually wouldn't be hard to create your own web search page that allows you to send queries to multiple search engines at the same time. A plugin could be developed for Firefox that would change the behavior of the default search box to hit multiple sites at once and return them to a single page or multiple tabs. We've been spoiled by the extreme reliability of Google such that a one hour outage is glaring.
  • RE: Do our Operating Systems need Search Failover?

    I would think that a company like Google would have backup servers.

    While Google search is important, I believe that Windows operating systems should be written so that a pc can be shut down instantaneously. Data should be processed continually, so that waiting 1/2 to 3 minutes for a computer to shut down is no longer necessary. The wait-time is a vulnerable span for every Windows pc. It is so last century.

    Mark J

  • Let the rioting begin

    Google being down for an hour is like NYC being without food for a day.

    As a country we need to decentralize. Otherwise, expect to see your life turned upside down by power outages that span multiple time zones, food shortages due to a single crop failure (wheat), fuel shortages when a single (Alaskan) pipeline bursts and terrorists that combine all the above, and more, in interesting ways.

    We should diversify while we can. But, we won't.
  • RE: Do our Operating Systems need Search Failover?


    Search is an application level function, that should be controlled by the user within the application.