Salesforce Outage: Can Customers Trust The Cloud? - InformationWeek
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Salesforce Outage: Can Customers Trust The Cloud?

Salesforce experienced an outage and service disruption to the NA14 instance, sending customers to Twitter to complain and organizations to evaluate the best way to work with cloud software providers.

10 Cloud Jobs In Highest Demand Now
10 Cloud Jobs In Highest Demand Now
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Will Salesforce's ongoing service disruption affect the confidence levels of customers and the market overall in the concept of software-as-a-service and cloud computing?

Maybe not, but it's a black eye for Salesforce, absolutely. So say analysts watching the situation at this high-profile cloud provider of enterprise apps. Experts offered recommendations about how customers should negotiate with cloud service providers such as Salesforce and others to mitigate the damages from cloud outages.

"Clearly it's an embarrassment for Salesforce," Gartner VP and fellow Yefim Natis told InformationWeek in an interview, noting that Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS have not been immune to outages either. "Outages happen to everyone. They vary in impact. This one was bad. People lost data. They didn't have access to systems for a long period of time."

[Google experienced a cloud outage last year. Read Google Cloud Outage: Virtual Networking Breakdown.]

The Salesforce service outage started on Tuesday with the company's NA14 instance, affecting customers on the US west coast. And while service was restored on Wednesday after nearly a full day of down time, the instance has continued to experience a degradation of service, according to Salesforce's online status site.

Here's what the Salesforce status message said about NA14 on Thursday morning: "The NA14 instance continues to operate in a degraded state. Customers can access the Salesforce service, but we have temporarily suspended some functionality such as weekly exports and sandbox copy functionality."

Salesforce provided this additional detail about the cause of the problem: "The service disruption was caused by a database failure on the NA14 instance, which introduced a file integrity issue in the NA14 database. The issue was resolved by restoring NA14 from a prior backup, which was not impacted by the file integrity issues. We have determined that data written to the NA14 instance between 9:53 UTC and 14:53 on May 10, 2016 could not be restored."

(Image: retrieved from Salesforce status site on May 12, 2016 by InformationWeek)

(Image: retrieved from Salesforce status site on May 12, 2016 by InformationWeek)

Experts agree that any IT system, whether on-premises or in the cloud, will always be susceptible to service outages, and organizations need to be prepared for that. The most proactive CIOs can read their cloud contracts and look for service level agreements that provide monetary compensation for significant outages, Natis said.

Natis and other analysts say they don't believe that the Salesforce outage will undermine customer confidence in the resilience of the cloud. One of those customers affected by the outage was technology analyst and business consulting firm Ventana Research. The company provides consulting services to businesses, but found its business offline Tuesday due to the Salesforce outage.

"The outage undermines my confidence in Salesforce but not cloud software as I have never had this issue with any other software-as-a-service or even on-premises software where you could control your own issues," CEO and Chief Research Officer Mark Smith told InformationWeek in an email on Wednesday.

"They cost companies including mine a whole day of work in revenue growth and selling, customer service, operations, billing, and overall productivity, and they could not provide any useful update until very early [Wednesday] morning and have offered nothing for the screw up."

To its credit, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff apologized for the outage on Twitter and responded to customer complaints there, providing them with his email address. But while the social media response may have been viewed as masterful by some, others were not impressed. And Salesforce still has plenty of work to do in the days ahead.

Natis said Salesforce must provide a detailed review of what went wrong and how it will prevent it from happening again. That's what Microsoft did a few years back after Azure experienced a significant outage in November 2014. The company eventually provided a detailed forensic analysis of what went wrong and how it would be avoided in the future. That's what Salesforce needs to do now, Natis said.

Salesforce's status site said that "as part of our standard process, we are performing a full root cause analysis and will provide our customers with the details once they are available."

Will that be enough to persuade irate Salesforce customers to stay with the company?

"This happening once will be forgiven," Natis said. However, if this Salesforce outage is an indication of things to come for Salesforce's systems, customers may start looking for other solutions.

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, ... View Full Bio

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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2016 | 8:09:46 PM
Re: Outages
@Broadway: It will likely depend upon the specifics of the contracts/SLAs.  Cloud providers know that outages can and do happen (albeit rarely on a big scale), so they tend to attempt to protect themselves as much as possible -- esp. b/c a lot of cloud customers can't/don't negotiate with them.  We'll see.

In any case, if there is a penalty or some other consideration Salesforce owes, and it provides it/pays it, then there's probably no lawsuit.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2016 | 10:23:55 PM
Re: Outages
moarsauce, you're right to say it's infrastructure and should be considered like any other aspect of infrastructure --- sewage, water, etc. etc. The problem is that the free marketers probably believe all of that should be taken away from the public sector. 
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/21/2016 | 9:47:42 AM
Re: Outages
The core problem is lack of competition and for profits owning the infrastructure. Where I live the options for a business are TimeWarner (soon to be Comcast), Verizon, and black fiber from Sprint. TWC just doesn't cut it for anything bigger than a mom & pop shop. Leaves two to pick from and that is just not enough competition. There is no interest in increasing service quality and lowering pricing when the providers get 50% of the market give or take a few percent. Also, many sign up with both so that they have an alternative if one goes down.

Also troublesome is that the infrastructure is owned by typically one for profit company. They may lease lines to competitors so that they recoup an investment quicker, but generally it is a walled garden. The intent is also to keep business expenses low, which causes investments into infrastructure to be kept at a minimum unless there is a clear, high ROI in a short period.

What we need is an enttity that operates like a non-profit with the sole task to provide infrastructure accessible to anyone interested at exactly the same access fee. Any income made by that organization is to be directly invested in operations, maintenance, and improvements. That opens the door to more competition because established companies as well as newcomers operate on a level playing field.

One approach hotly debated are municipal networks. Cities, towns, and counties invest into top notch communications infrastructure for their own use as well as offering to local businesses and consumers. The goal is to interconnect these networks so that communications can flow from one network to the next. This is how Sweden built up their Internet infrastructure and other European countries did the same. In several places the infrastructure is already in place because the network operator is or until recently was a federally owned entity.

Administrations should not get involved in manufacturing and services except for infrastructure (streets, rail, water and sewage, gas, electricity, telecom) and public services (fire, police, public parks, etc). That seems to be the only way to get a reliable backbone for everyone to use rather than depend on penny pinching for profits that exclusively tune their operations for quarterly results and shareholder value. A public entity is also the only vehicle that is subject to public control, yet it still needs to be run and treated like a business. My proposal is not about building bridges to nowhere. Others have done this with great success. Sadly, some political forces in the US are totally against this idea, calling it communism, anti-business, and due to lack of real arguments "anti-american". Until that moronic view changes we will have companies nail coax to bean poles next to the roads and charge a ridiculously amount of money for craptastic service without facing much competition.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
5/20/2016 | 11:04:36 PM
Re: Outages
moarsauce, how are we a developed economy that has such scarcity of such a vital 21st century resource? Is it just me, or is it shocking that this is another example of the degradation of our infrastructure?
tigger2
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tigger2,
User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2016 | 11:45:10 AM
Ease of update vs safety
Right now my franchise business has a three tier data base design - capture and save on a local machine, capture and process several machines on another local server, and then upload information to the national server. The software upgrade process goes in reverse and has its own set of issues when local machines don't get upgraded. The national company is moving to Salesforce where software updates are instaneous to all users since it is browser driven on the Salesforce servers. At the same time all data is captured in the cloud - only. If I lost five hours of client captured data during my busy season I think I would have to close my doors. Recovery seems impossible to me and my legal exposure beggars imagination. Quite frankly this scare the h**l out of me.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/14/2016 | 10:27:13 AM
Re: Outages
The servers of the cloud service providers failing are one concern, but one that the providers can compensate. As a business I'd be more concerned about the connection between my office and the cloud servers. Fast and reliable Internet connectivity with low latency that is affordable is a scarce resource especially in the US. As a business that relies on cloud services such as Salesforce two or better three quickly available Internet connections need to be in place as well as plans B and C to switch business over to in-house or non-tech solutions.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2016 | 10:47:10 PM
Re: Outages
Is there no financial ramification to Salesforce for such outtages? You have the exec quoted in the article clearly exasperated about the financial impact to his company. Will he next sue Salesforce to recoup those damages? Will he make a claim to his insurance company? Somebody's got to pay right?
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2016 | 9:54:06 AM
Outages
Funny timing, with Salesforce Connections happening this week in Atlanta.

This has been a perennial concern with the cloud -- particularly since the AWS outages of 2011.  It's something tha thas to go into the risk/cost-benefit analysis, to be sure.  Outages are rare, but the more you aggregate data and servers, the more impactful outages will be.
TechYogJosh
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TechYogJosh,
User Rank: Black Belt
5/13/2016 | 9:14:05 AM
What is the point?
Are we saying the on-premise systems dont go down? May be cloud goes down and impacts a lot of users. Isn't this better? May be your competitors have deployed the same cloud SaaS too. Which means in earlier days if your on-premise systems have gone down, your competitor could benefit. But now all of you are tied to the cloud SaaS and if it goes down you all are impacted. I believe this is a better alternative. On a serious note, every system goes down and focusing on cloud SaaS as it's a better story is unethical. We need to understand cloud resiliency is significantly higher than on-premise systems. Therefore, if enterprises start taking their workloads in-house due to such incidents it will be short sighted and they will repent that in the future.
jimbo0117
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jimbo0117,
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2016 | 7:10:57 PM
Re: Can Salesforce afford tol lose four hours of customer data?
Last time I checked, 09:53 UTC until 14:53 UTC is five hours of data lost, not four.
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