Cloud: get the paperwork right or the technology suffers

It sounds obvious, ensure the paperwork is OK, and the tech takes care of itself - but that's not always the case

Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you have the best technology run by the best people, it’s easy to be tripped up by the small things.

That must have been the feeling at Microsoft over the weekend when Azure Storage suffered a six-hour outage because someone in Redmond forgot to renew the security certificate.  Users were alerted as to the extent of the problem by Microsoft’s own forum.

With HTTPS unavailable, several sysadmins were left looking for workarounds to use HTTP instead – that protocol was unaffected but there was much dissatisfaction with Microsoft’s response.

Microsoft held its hands up to its error and offered compensation for its customers but there will doubtless be punters who were badly burned by this. As one bitter poster to the Azure forum posted “Azure cloud equals vapourware”.

What makes it worse for Microsoft is that this is the second time in a year that it has had a problem with Azure. Last time, it was the small matter of forgetting that 2012 was a leap year, which caused all sorts of difficulties when 1 March snuck up on them.

These things happen but the problem with moving to a cloud system is that these things shouldn’t happen. An organisation can be 100 percent happy with its own procedures but if it relies on the endeavours of another company that it has to be a 100 percent happy with that supplier.  If there’s going to be a problem with the take-up of cloud, it’s not going to be the technology but it’s going to be an administrative howler like this one.

Cloud is still such a nascent industry that errors like these are not fatal but cloud suppliers as a whole can’t afford too many of them and for Microsoft, it really is time to get its act together as another screw-up like this may be too hard to ignore – three strikes may not be out, but it would certainly be a major blow.

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