Passport Database Outage: 'We Regret The Inconvenience' - InformationWeek

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7/30/2014
11:45 AM
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Passport Database Outage: 'We Regret The Inconvenience'

US State Department database used to process passports and visas still hasn't recovered from a crash last week -- leaving tens of thousands of people stranded overseas.

(Image: Consular Affairs Facebook page)
(Image: Consular Affairs Facebook page)

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asksqn
IW Pick
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 2:07:13 PM
Another day, another glitch
As government FUBARs go, the only event bigger than this one remains the Obamacare exchanges debacle from last October.  But since it only affects a tiny majority of those who have the disposable income/employer largesse for international travel expenses, I don't expect to see a lot of outrage coming from anyone but stranded travelers.  
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 2:14:02 PM
The cloud cures all solution
I meant to mention that one of the people posting on Facebook helpfully noted that the whole problem could be solved by shipping the whole database to the Amazon cloud and spinning up a few thousand extra servers to handle the load.

"I wish that could be the solution for everything," was the reaction from ScaleArc CTO Singh when I bounced that one off him. Short version of why it's not the real answer is that strategy works great for certain applications, particularly web apps, but even then getting the architecture right takes a lot of work. The cloud is not a quick fix.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 2:33:08 PM
Watchlist
What's most worrisome is if someone on the terrorism watchlist were able to slip in because of manual processes. It's unfortunate that people are stranded, but security has to preempt convenience.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 3:30:23 PM
Re: Watchlist
@Lorna, I tend to agree with you. While it's a significant (and possibly avoidable, as Dave mentions) inconvenience for the stranded travelers, I'm sure that given the choice, most would favor security over inconvenience.
Lorna Garey
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50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 4:15:06 PM
Re: The cloud cures all solution
Oracle is looking to be a cloud player, this seems like a golden opportunity for the company to generate some good press and good will by jumping in and doing what needs to be done to get the database up and running 100%.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 4:29:46 PM
Re: Watchlist
Right, plus once you've built your whole process around a digital system, it's difficult to revert to paper forms and rubber stamps. If they tried to do so, there would be screwups as a result and bigger news if terrorists slipped into the country during the period of confusion.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 6:17:05 PM
Lack of cloud understanding is the least of their problems
They should have had a disaster recovery system in the cloud, accessible by offices anywhere in the world. To explain that this application can't be easily moved to the cloud is a dodge, indicating they don't understand either recovery issues or cloud comuting very well. But that goes without saying, given the performance reliability we're witnessing here.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 6:39:14 PM
Re: Lack of cloud understanding is the least of their problems
If not cloud per se, they should have had a backup system or replica, sure. Easy to say, not necessarily easy to fit into the budget.
wwu123
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wwu123,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2014 | 7:11:40 PM
Re: Another day, another glitch
My wife lost her green card while we were on vacation in Europe, and has not been able to return home for more than a week now.  Yes, we are just inconvenienced stranded travelers and can afford it, having already lost thousands with her purse contents and running around trying to replace travel documents.  However, my three-year-old will not have a mother for nearly a month, as now we expect it will be that long before my wife is finally able to come home to the U.S.
David F. Carr
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50%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/31/2014 | 11:34:55 AM
Re: Another day, another glitch
Wow. Do attibute your wife's situation to the computer problem? Sounds like the paperwork issues can be tough to begin with.
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