Testers of Microsoft's SQL Azure service experienced a three-plus hour unplanned outage this week -- just a couple of weeks before Microsoft is set to remove the beta tag from its Azure cloud service.
During prior Azure outages (planned and unplanned), the team made sure to blog about the causes. This week's outage, which occurred on the opening day of Microsoft's SQL PASS user group conference, received no mention (other than a brief acknowledgment on the MSDN SQL Azure forums).
A tester wondering what happened sent me a note. From his e-mail:
"Microsoft didn't formally acknowledge the problem until the outage was almost resolved. That's 3+ hours wondering when the cloud would recover. Still no details on what happened."
When I asked about what was behind the outage, I received the following note back from an Azure spokesperson:
"We were doing testing on the connection of the central billing platform yesterday and unfortunately experienced some downtime with SQL Azure. When discovered, we notified (Community Technology Preview) CTP customers right away and within a few hours had the service back online."
Yes, Azure and SQL Azure are still in the test phase. But Microsoft is trying to lay the groundwork to get consumers, developers and enterprise customers to trust the availability, reliability and privacy guarantees of the service. Speaking of privacy guarantees, Microsoft published today a white paper outlining the company's privacy policies for cloud computing.
SQL Azure will be feature-complete by November, the Softies have said, and testers will have the option of rolling over existing projects seamlessly to the fully supported production environment and a paid subscription to the SQL Azure Database service.
Microsoft officials have said to expect the company to remove the beta tag from Azure by mid-November. Last week, the Softies said that the company will go public with a number of new Windows Azure features on November 17 during the company's Professional Developers Conference. The Azure CTP will remain open through December 31. Customers won't be charged for Azure usage in January, but as of February 1, Microsoft will begin charging customers for using Windows Azure.
Microsoft provided Azure pricing details earlier this year.