Last week Google had an outage that made pundits talk about unreliability of the cloud (again). I have written several times in this blog about how stupid it is to blame cloud computing for such outages. Most recently, Dan Morrill wrote a post arguing the same. There are some people in the clouderati who had argued that since Google is the poster child of cloud computing, there is nothing wrong in terming the outage in Google as the cloud outage. I have enormous respect for my colleagues in the clouderati but I considered this particular talk as more of a vendor speak and didn’t bother too much about it. But, now, it appears they are right.
The downtime for Gmail and Google Contacts last week was caused by high load to Google Contacts. Google Apps users could not access or experienced disruptions in their Gmail accounts from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EDT. Users received a 500-series timeout error or found that Gmail pages loaded slowly. Users also could not access Contacts through Gmail from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT, which meant that users also couldn’t access Google Talk or add contacts to Google Apps. To fix the Gmail degradation, Google’s engineering team temporarily stopped all requests to use the Contacts feature from the Gmail interface.
If this is the reason for Google’s outage, it is a body blow to the idea of cloud computing. If Google, the poster boy (girl?) of Cloud Computing, cannot handle the load of one of its feature, then it is sad. If they have to shut down the service to fix a load problem due to a feature, then it is sad. This brings into focus whether Google’s scalability is a myth. I hope to hear more from Google on this snafu. They have to come clean on this.
My rhetoric aside, I still stand by my previous assertions that such outages in the services of Google and Amazon doesn’t mean much about the reliability of cloud computing. Naysayers will pick on everything but they are called naysayers for a reason. In the political speak, it is like attributing Dick Cheney’s philosophy to all Americans just because he was part of the previous administration. Let us not resort to fear mongering. That era is finally over. Let us be realistic about the reality. Cloud computing is growing up real fast. It is offering unprecedented advantage to the businesses. Yes, there are some quirks. Yes, we need to work on the compliance related issues. But, it doesn’t mean cloud computing is a non-starter. Businesses has to do a realistic cost benefit analysis and decide on how to adapt the clouds into their existing workflow. In the mean time, Googles and Amazons of the world can do a favor by not behaving like teenage kids. They need to mature fast on the technology front.