Summary:

Microsoft issues credit, apologies and an explanation to Windows Azure customers affected by the recent Leap Day outage that took down several services. Snafus like this one not only affect the specific vendor but can hurt overall confidence in the cloud computing model.

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Microsoft is issuing credits for the recent Leap Day Azure outage. The glitch, which cropped up on Feb. 29 and persisted well into the next day, was a setback to Microsoft, which is trying to convince businesses and consumers that its Azure platform-as-a-service is a safe and secure place to put their data and host their applications.

Windows Azure competes with other platforms as a service like Heroku as well as Amazon Web Services' infrastructure as a service.

According to a Microsoft Azure blog post, the glitch occurred because Windows Azure’s Guest Agent calculated “the valid-to date by taking the current date and adding one to its year. That meant that any GA that tried to create a transfer certificate on leap day set a valid-to date of February 29, 2013, an invalid date that caused the certificate creation to fail.”

In his post, Bill Laing, corporate VP of Microsoft’s server and cloud division,  said the outage affected Windows Azure Compute and dependent services, including Access Control Access, the Windows Azure Service Bus, SQL Azure Portal and Data Sync Services. Other services — Windows Azure Storage and SQL Azure database services — were not affected, Laing said.

Laing wrote:

Due to the extraordinary nature of this event, we have decided to provide a 33% credit to all customers of Windows Azure Compute, Access Control, Service Bus and Caching for the entire affected billing month(s) for these services, regardless of whether their service was impacted. These credits will be applied proactively and will be reflected on a billing period subsequent to the affected billing period.

He referred affected customers to Azure support.

Laing also apologized for the spotty performance of the Windows Azure Dashboard, which is supposed to keep users updated as to how Azure is running.  The dashboard experienced “intermittent availability issues,” he acknowledged, and didn’t provide adequate detail and transparency.

Outages like this cast a shadow on not just Azure but cloud computing at a time when many businesses are evaluating the model for more of their workloads. Cloud proponents maintain that such glitches are no more common in the cloud than they are in internal data centers.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user D.Begley.

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