The boss of Air New Zealand has given us a convenient term for companies that can't get to grips with the realities of delivering computing as a service: "Amateurs". His reported comments were addressed to IBM, which failed to restore operations at a mainframe data center in a responsive enough fashion after a major outage on Sunday:
"In my 30-year working career," he reportedly emailed the hapless vendor, "I am struggling to recall a time where I have seen a supplier so slow to react to a catastrophic system failure such as this and so unwilling to accept responsibility and apologise to its client and its client's customers."
T-Mobile is another reputable company left looking amateurish today after the catastrophic loss last week of all user data stored on its Sidekick service. But the real amateurs behind this story appear to be Microsoft and Hitachi, who are believed implicated in a server failure that took out both the production and backup databases on the storage network where Sidekick data is stored.
To read a contrasting story that shows how cloud outages get handled professionally, check out Michael Krigsman's post last week about the recent 15-hour outage suffered by on-demand ERP provider Workday. Here, too, a network storage device caused a total meltdown, shutting itself down when it detected a corrupted node in a backup disk. Workday avoided Sidekick's fate by invoking its disaster recovery plan. It avoided IBM's fate by acting rapidly and going out of its way to keep its customers informed.
As I've often written in the past, big, established companies frequently over-estimate their competence at cloud computing and SaaS, simply because they fail to realize it's far more than just a repackaging of what they already do. Unfortunately, their inability to grasp the emerging as-a-service business model and the demands of cloud-scale computing leave them performing like amateurs. The pity of it is, their arrogance and incompetence undermines trust in all cloud computing providers, even those that take their responsibilities seriously.