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Was SQL Server Behind Hotmail Outage?

Microsoft is providing scant details about last weekend's Windows Live Hotmail outage, but the Data Driver blog's interest was piqued by a Microsoft announcement in a blog post that customers "temporarily lost the contents of their mailbox through the course of mailbox load balancing between servers."

And, as has been reported many times, Hotmail runs on SQL Server. A December 2009 blog posting that offered "A peek behind the scenes at Hotmail" indicated the service is "the largest SQL Server 2008 deployment in the world (we monitor and manage many thousands of SQL servers)." (Coincidentally, both aforementioned posts were in the Windows Team Blog.)

Of course, after the outage was fixed, the anti-Microsoft camp soon weighed in with some pointed digs, such as these two found in comments on a Yahoo News article:

  • "Wow! Microsoft is blaming their service failure on a Microsoft server. Wow!"
  • "Maybe someone should tell them about Linux?"

But interestingly, according to Yahoo Answers, "Before Microsoft bought out Hotmail, their servers were all Linux based, and Microsoft left them that way for many years until the bad publicity forced them to use their own operating systems."

Of course, all computer systems will suffer failures, and I think Microsoft is as serious about reliability and security as anyone. But coming close on the heels of the cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite data breach, the Hotmail outage opens the company up to yet more criticism as it seeks to transition to "live" and cloud-based services. Ironically, that "peek behind the scenes at Hotmail" posting mentioned earlier included this information:

We make significant investments in engineering and infrastructure to help keep Hotmail up and running 24 hours a day, day in and day out, year after year. You will rarely hear about these efforts – you will only read about them on the rare occasion that something goes wrong and our service has run into an issue.

Too true.

Do you have any inside info on how Hotmail uses SQL Server or more details on the nature of the outage? Please comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/05/2011 at 1:15 PM


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