MobileMe Problems Show Apple Needs an Infrastructure Lesson

56 Comments

Steve Jobs, in an internal email seen by Ars Technica, makes clear that he’s upset about the botched launch of MobileMe, Apple’s new online suite of applications that has been plagued with bugs, including being flat-out unavailable to some for days at a time.

“It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store,” he says. “We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.”

Amen to that. Having been a subscriber to dot-Mac for years, I was quite upset when the service failed to work at launch. They tried to hush everyone by waiving one month’s fee, but regardless, while some parts of it are up and running, many of the problems continue.

It wasn’t till Walt Mossberg and David Pogue publicly spanked the service with their respective wet bamboo stems that Apple started to understand the magnitude of the problem.

In his email, Jobs says: “The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services.” You can say that again. The big question in the wake of the MobileMe debacle is whether or not the company even knows how to plan for heavy load.

I have picked up some tidbits from my Internet infrastructure sources, who tell me that:

  • There is no-unified IT plan vis-a-vis applications; each has their own set of servers, IT practices and release scenarios.
  • Developers do testing, load testing and infrastructure planning, all of which is implemented by someone else.
  • There’s no unified monitoring system.
  • They use Oracle on Sun servers for the databases and everything has its own SAN storage. They do not use active Oracle RAC; it is all single-instance, on one box, with a secondary failover.
  • Apparently they are putting web servers and app servers on the same machines, which causes performance problems.

One of my sources opined that Apple clearly wasn’t too savvy about all the progress made in infrastructure over the past few years. If this insinuation is indeed true, then there is no way Apple can get over its current spate of problems. It needs a crash course in infrastructure and Internet services. Apple’s problem is that it doesn’t seem to have recognized the fact that it’s in the business of network-enabled hardware.

The looks, UI and edge devices are only as good as the networking experience — whether it comes from Apple or from its partners. MobileMe could just be the canary in the coal mine as far as the Cupertino Kingdom is concerned. MobileMe isn’t that big a portion of their revenues right now, but what happens when the problems hit the iTunes store? Imagine the uproar when your 3G connections slow to a crawl because AT&T’s wireless backhaul can’t handle the traffic surge.

It might not be a problem of Apple’s making but the company will face the brunt of the backlash. Remember, most of us instinctively blame the device first, then curse the carrier.

56 Comments

BKATZ

Last week I got an email from Apple inviting me to try MobileMe Calendar Beta. Like a schmuck, I tried it. It screwed up everything. Then a support advisor told me, during a support chat, to downgrade back to the original, and sent me instructions for how to do it.

That completely messed up all of my data, which disappeared from all my devices. I spent more than 6 hours on chats and phone calls with support yesterday, and another 7 hours today until the problem was resolved. That’s 13 hours out of my life. An entire Friday evening – from 4:30 PM till 10:30 PM, and all of a beautiful, sunny Saturday – from 10:30 AM till 5:00 PM.

I WANT MY 13 HOURS BACK. THIS TOTALLY SUCKS. I AM FURIOUS. WHY SHOULD I HAVE THE BETTER PART OF TWO DAYS OF MY LIFE TAKEN AWAY JUST SO I CAN BE A GUNNIE PIG FOR APPLE’S DAMN BETA TEST OF SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T FRIGGING WORK????????????????????

I bill my time out at anywhere from $175 to $250/hr – more on evenings and weekends. I think Apple owes me $3,250!

I never had such a terrible experience with Microsoft in all the years I used PCs.

John

I’m done with this imMobileMe service. Free Google email and apps for me.

White rasta

interesting to hear the techie thoughts on why mobileme has had problems. I think it has great potential but these can’t be overcome until apple invest in server hubs across the globe. As it is my iDisk is in the UK but the server is in California with an average ping of 400ms. This would have been little concern to apple when it only had a few .mac customers in the UK, but the sudden flood of UK and EU customers must be a great strain on apple’s existing infrastructure.

Randy

This “Mobile ME” disaster shouldn’t surprise anyone. Apple makes some of the BUGGIEST software I have ever seen! THEY DON’T TEST THEIR SOFTWARE! This is a company which spends NOTHING on testing, with respect to its income. Tell me, ADC members: how many bugs are there, OPEN and UNRESOLVED, in the “Apple Bug Reporter” for every million dollars STEVE JOBS takes home annually?

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