Among Google's official statements to the 113 million Gmail users:
"We're aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Gmail. We will provide an update by February 24, 2009 6:30 AM PST detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change. POP3/IMAP seems to be still functioning, and the problem doesn't appear to affect other Google Apps at this point)"
"If you've tried to access your Gmail account today, you are probably aware by now that we're having some problems," said Acacio Cruz, Gmail Site Reliability Manager, in a blog post." Shortly after 9:30am GMT our monitoring systems alerted us that Gmail consumer and businesses accounts worldwide could not get access to their email. We're working very hard to solve the problem and we're really sorry for the inconvenience."
To be fair, Google still has the Beta tag on Gmail -- so issues should be expected. Then again, to be fair, Google has applied "Beta" so broadly that it's easy to argue the term has lost all meaning for any Google offering.
But that's largely an inside baseball debate. Let's say you're a business owner or an IT manager in a midsize company considering this outage. You need e-mail. You need it every day, but the cost of supporting Microsoft Exchange is killing you -- particularly in this economy. Why not make e-mail someone else's problem? Put it in the cloud, rest easy, lower your costs.
No more mail server -- no more mail headaches, right? Unless there's an outage that is.
Outages like this -- not mention other developments like the recent Coghead collapse -- cast doubts on cloud computing. With on-premises options, you may have outages, but you can at least see and touch the server and do something (or pretend you're doing something) about it.
Does a Gmail outage portend the demise of cloud computing? Hardly. But it does nothing to convince fence sitters to move to the cloud and gives the naysayers more reason to stay right where they are.