Research In Motion says it has fixed the issue behind an e-mail outage that hit BlackBerry subscribers in North America early Thursday, but critics are urging RIM to rethink the network architecture that powers the BlackBerry service.
The outage appears to be limited to RIM's consumer-oriented BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), which lets BlackBerry users surf the Web and get realtime access to their POP3/IMAP/Outlook Web Access e-mail accounts without going through a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).
Both the BES and the BIS work in conjunction with RIM's network operations center (NOC), which relays e-mails from users' inboxes to wireless carriers, which in turn relay the e-mails to users' BlackBerry devices.
Customers affected by past BlackBerry outages have criticized RIM's NOC approach for representing a single point of failure, and those criticisms are once again being leveled at the Waterloo, Ontario-based firm.
"The old-school, single NOC-based technology is long in the tooth and is being shown as yesterday's technology every few weeks now," wrote one angry poster to the enthusiast blog RIMarkable.
Steve Beauregard, president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based mobility solution provider Regard Solutions, describes RIM's NOC as a "huge competitive advantage" given the many points of failure that exist in a wireless network. "As a long standing BlackBerry partner, we feel the overall pros of the NOC providing reliable data transport far outweigh the temporary outages," he said.
However, Beauregard also acknowledges that the NOC architecture can lead to problems when outages happen. "When RIM does suffer an outage all BlackBerry users beyond that point of failure are all affected," he said.
On Thursday at 11 a.m., a RIM spokesperson sent the following statement via e-mail:
"RIM has isolated and resolved the issue that was impacting some BlackBerry customers earlier this morning. Some customers may still experience delays as e-mail queues are processed. RIM is continuing to investigate the cause of the issue and apologizes for any inconvenience."
RIM, which has about 32 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide, experienced high-profile outages in February 2008 and April 2007. The BlackBerry e-mail system represents one of the world's largest outsourced infrastructure operations, and RIM has been criticized for not being open enough about the cause of outages.