Gmail Outage: the ‘beginning of the end for Cloud Computing’

Love GmailFrom the Financial Times 25.02.09:

Google's e-mail service, used by more than 100m people, suffered a global crash yesterday, raising concerns about the world's growing reliance on web services.

The Gmail failure lasted more than two hours from about 1.30am on the US west coast, hitting users in Europe and Asia  hardest as America slept.

The internet giant said its monitoring systems had alerted it that consumer and business accounts worldwide could not access e-mail and apologised for the inconvenience.

It is the worst failure to date for Gmail, a browser-based e-mail service that has been growing at a rate of 40 per cent a year by user numbers and gaining on its bigger rivals, Yahoo Mail and Microsoft's Hotmail.

...The crash is a blow to Google's ambitions for business e-mail and applications that it delivers over the internet. Users of its Google Apps Premier Edition, which charges $50 per account for services including Gmail, complained on support forums yesterday.

"It was difficult enough . . . convincing the rest of my company that this was a wise move [to Gmail] and the future for us. This will now make it very difficult to instill any sort of confidence," said one posting.

Heeeeere we go... how predictable was this?! While I was affected by the Gmail outage yesterday, my first reaction was principally one of surprise as Gmail is usually so reliable. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I was affected by a problem with it. I think it’s important to keep this outage in perspective, too: back in the old days of using POP3 mail (and boy, the painful memories come flooding back) the number of outages, unexplained glitches and other problems far outnumbered what we see today on almost any web-based email. Gmail is surely at the top of the pile as far as reliability is concerned – at least in my experience, though Gmail also seems best-of-breed anecdotally too.

Having a two hour outage is annoying, granted, but the fact it’s caused so much outrage is testament to the fact that cloud computing (at least as far as email is concerned) usually works so well. The conveniences of keeping your email in the cloud far outweigh any minor niggle that might pop up once in a blue moon. It’s also true that because Gmail supports IMAP, as well as the recently-added offline support via GoogleGears, problems like this could be mitigated somewhat for certain users.

Those paying for a subscription service, will obviously be more annoyed.  For the cloud computing paradigm to seriously take-off going forwards, these types of niggles clearly need to be further ironed-out.  For the majority of users, however, this disruption serves as a timely reminder that what they’re using is a FREE service which, 99.whatever percent of the time, is absolutely first rate. 

So is this a nail in the coffin for cloud computing or just an inevitable scaremongering exercise by the media? I think it’s almost certainly the latter.


  1. I didn't notice it, but I still think it's a great service. Give them a break!

  2. Absolutely! BTW Andro, I'm sure you'll be pleased to see that my Pancake Day header, you know, that 'thing' as you called it, has now been taken down. :-p

  3. What? So early??

    I don't know about the UK, but we have a pancake week, not day, in Russia, so I'm still celebrating!

  4. Wow... a full week of pancake eating! It's only celebrated for one day in the UK as far as I know - the 'feasting' on the glorious pancakes has had to give way for the sacrifices made for Lent now.

    But, I can put that 'thing' back up for the rest of the week if you're missing it so? :-p


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