Extended outage at salesforce.com

The Salesforce.com service has been out of action for a large part of today, which is bad news for the company and for the rest of the on-demand industry.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

Any salesforce.com user rushing to finish off work chores before Christmas will have rued their luck today. According to SalesForceWatch.com, "Salesforce has been down since 9:20am EST. Haven't seen any update — message on support line does not indicate ETA."

On-demand outages are a lot like air disastersHaving set itself up as the poster child for on-demand applications and the nemesis of conventional software, an extended outage at salesforce.com is bad news not just for salesforce.com but for everyone in the on-demand industry.

On-demand outages are a lot like air disasters. They're massively less frequent than outages of conventional on-premises software. But when they do happen, instead of affecting just one company or set of users, they affect a whole lot of companies and users all at the same time. That makes it a highly visible affair, just like when an airplane crashes. So even though we all know that traveling by automobile is way less safe than traveling by air, we still get scared of flying to a far greater extent than we do of driving.

Exactly the same illogic applies to on-demand versus on-premises. We know that on-demand vendors take every possible step to avoid outages, doing far more than most individual enterprises are willing or capable of doing in their own data centers. And yet the specter of on-demand failure looms so much larger because it brings home to us our powerlessness when it happens.

I'm still waiting to hear any official word from salesforce.com about what exactly has happened and when things are expected to get back to normal. So I'll be posting more about this when I know more. One of the severest tests of an on-demand provider is how effectively the company handles customer communications in the midst of an episode like this. My guess is that salesforce.com isn't setting a great example today, something I'll examine at greater length when I return. 

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