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Blackberry outage a storage issue?

As approximately the last person in the Western Hemisphere not to own a PDA, I escaped the Great Blackberry Outage of Aught Eight last week, and got to have that much more time to be smug about my lack of dependence on such a thing before I inevitably get one and grow so dependent on it I need Tommy John surgery on my thumbs.

This week, though, the plot thickened for storage folks as it was revealed that the outage was caused by a failure during a systems upgrade. According to Reuters, the outage was caused by an upgrade to a data routing system inside one of the company’s data centers. In the past, RIM suffered an outage to its Blackberry service because of cache upgrades. Drunken Data auteur Jon Toigo thinks they’re still having storage problems, and cites an AP report on MSNBC saying the failure happened during a system upgrade designed to increase capacity.

Meanwhile, Reuters seems to imply that at heart, data growth is what bit RIM. “RIM has been adding corporate, government and retail subscribers at a torrid pace and has had to expand its capacity in step to handle increased e-mail and other data traffic. Its total subscriber base sits at about 12 million according to latest available data.”

The fact of the matter is that no system is failproof–but I think Reuters brings up a good point. We’re opening up new frontiers in massive multi-tenancy and creating new and unprecedented demands on computer systems; we’re also consolidating data into the hands of service providers like RIM. My sense is we’re going to start seeing more of this kind of issue as these trends continue, especially as more and more new services come online. So maybe I’ll just rely on good old dinosaur Outlook for a little while longer.

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Very interesting post - especially the issue you raised in the last paragraph regarding the changing face of computing, e.g. increased multi-tenancy and data consolidation. In my opinion, this is a clear example of the need for specialized utility computing services. Blackberry shouldn't be managing their own storage because it isn't their area of expertise - they should continue focusing on managing their network, extending their software, and managing communications. The storage question should be abstracted away and solved by an storage service provider (SSP?), a firm that specializes in secure abstract storage at massive scale. An early (very incomplete) example of this is Amazon's S3 (which, incidentally, would not work well in this specific instance, but is a precursor to the kind of service I'm talking about).
Beth, the C|Net article you refer to describes last year's outage. It was published April 19, 2007. There is no point in guessing that the cache they are referring to is the cache in a high-end disk storage system.
Brad, appreciate you pointing that out and regret the error. The post has been amended with links referring to the most recent outage.