Beleaguered BlackBerry maker Research In Motion’s bad week is not getting much better.
As the company entered its third day of service outage in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina, Stephen Bates, the head of the company’s UK operation, covering some seven million BlackBerry users, ducked out of a key RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) event in London while the company continues to try to get to the bottom of the problem that has left millions of users without messaging and internet browsing services. Now, users in the U.S. and Canada might find themselves impacted, too.
RIM’s most recent public statement on the outage, made last night, noted that “a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible.”
But in an interview this morning in London, Rory O’Neill, VP of software and services in EMEA, told paidContent that, in fact, the company is still trying to figure out what it is that has caused the fallover in its system.
Update: there are now reports emerging that the problems are now also affecting users in the U.S. and Canada. O’Neill would not explain how and if RIM’s services are running on the same infrastructure or whether it is regionally separated, but this latest development implies that the problem is affecting more of the company’s infrastructure that previously known or admitted.
O’Neill had to step in at the last minute at an annual company event, the BlackBerry Innovation Forum, to take over the keynote presentation in place of Bates, who is the MD of RIM in the UK. After making an apology to the audience, Bates left the event to fight fires elsewhere. “Stephen has gone back to talk to other channels, customers and partners to make sure they stay one hundred percent informed,” said. O’Neill.
O’Neill provided paidContent with a bit more detail on what is going wrong — or at least where RIM is standing at the moment.
He said that RIM’s software and engineering teams are working “24 by seven” right now still trying to figure out just what has gone wrong and get services restored. “The fundamental cause as far as we know is the issue with the core switch and a failing in the component architecture,” he said. “It has to do with how our networks speak to each other, and we are trying to fix that while preserving all messages.”
Overnight, he said, the system was actually performing “fairly well,” but then the components didn’t behave as expected.
It’s not clear if RIM itself shut down the system this time around to work on this issue, or if the system is simply not working any more. From O’Neill’s description, it sounded, in fact, like RIM could be forcing the shut down right now itself: “‘[Engineers] would be monitoring traffic loads and performance of the service. If they notice any component is failing, they will try to remedy or isolate it. When we see the service levels performing normally, we will put services back on as we see fit.”
He noted that currently, the problem is not a blanket one: in other words, some may still have email and/or BBM messaging functionality, while others might still be able to browse the Internet.
The way that the BlackBerry system works is that all data services except for text messaging are routed through RIM’s servers, regardless of whether they are enterprise-class customers or consumers. “I’ve had to relearn how to text,” he noted to me wryly.
Will enterprise users get compensated in any way for the service collapse? “It’s way too early to say whether there will be compensation,” he noted. But surely there will be something because of the SLAs that RIM will have in place particularly with corporate customers.
When the system is up and running, RIM moves about 20 petabytes of data per month worldwide, pushing millions of messages to BlackBerry customers in real-time, he noted.