Microsoft Azure Cloud Service Hit With Worldwide Outage

The Azure cloud service went down at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and impacted service in geographic regions in Western Europe, Northern Europe, East Asia, and in the U.S., according to Microsoft. Service was restored to the “majority” of customers about nine hours later.

Bill Laing, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Server and Cloud Division, apologized for the outage in a blog published Wednesday afternoon about two hours before all service was restored, noting that some customers were still experiencing a loss of application functionality.

“Once we discovered the issue we immediately took steps to protect customer services that were already up and running, and began creating a fix for the issue,” Laing wrote. “The fix was successfully deployed to most of the Windows Azure sub-regions and we restored Windows Azure service availability to the majority of our customers and services by 2:57AM PST, Feb. 29th.

Although problems lingered into Wednesday evening for some customers in the southern U.S., Microsoft said service appeared to be restored by 6:30 p.m. PST.

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Microsoft said the outage was caused by a software bug related to a “time calculation that was incorrect for the leap year." Windows Azure Storage was not affected by the outage.

The outage drew angry reaction from customers, some of whom wanted more communication about the issue.

“There are currently serious issues with Windows Azure. The dashboard shows it's being worked on. Since we rely heavily on Windows Azure, we've been monitoring the dashboard closely the entire day,” Nitramafve wrote on an Azure chat board. “What I've noticed is a complete lack of estimates on issues will be resolved. What is the reasons behind Microsoft not informing its customers when the issue will be resolved?”

“My company's website's have been down for the last hour (since approx 11am GMT). This is causing quite a problem for us as we accept online payment 24-7 across the UK and Europe,” Bernie wrote early Wednesday.

“The service dashboard isn't telling me anything outside of what I already know, except it's saying "Deployed applications will continue to run." - I can tell you this isn't true as the deployed applications aren't responding. Our applications are deployed in the Northern Ireland datacenter.

For status updates, customers should refer to the Windows Azure Service Dashboard for latest status, Microsoft said.

Other cloud providers have also suffered significant outages in recent months, among them Amazon, Google, and VMware. Such difficulties raise troubling questions for companies seeking assurance that their business won’t be disrupted if they trust it to a hosted cloud service.