Microsoft Details Recent Hotmail / Outlook.com Outage

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A small number of users of Microsoft’s webmail service Hotmail/Outlook.com yesterday experienced a long service outage. The services was fully restored after nearly 15 hours. Microsoft VP Arthur de Haan today blogged in detail about the root cause of the service and how they restored it.

Read it below.

Root cause analysis

At 13:35 PM PDT on March 12th, 2013 there was a service interruption that affected some people’s access to a small part of the SkyDrive service, but primarily Hotmail.com and Outlook.com. Availability was restored over the course of the afternoon and evening, and fully restored by 5:43 AM PDT on March 13th, 2013.

On the afternoon of the 12th, in one physical region of one of our datacenters, we performed our regular process of updating the firmware on a core part of our physical plant. This is an update that had been done successfully previously, but failed in this specific instance in an unexpected way. This failure resulted in a rapid and substantial temperature spike in the datacenter. This spike was significant enough before it was mitigated that it caused our safeguards to come in to place for a large number of servers in this part of the datacenter.

These safeguards prevented access to mailboxes housed on these servers and also prevented any other pieces of our infrastructure to automatically failover and allow continued access. This area of the datacenter houses parts of the Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, and SkyDrive infrastructure, and so some people trying to access those services were impacted.

Details of impact and restoration

Once the safeguards kicked in on these systems, the team was instantly alerted and they immediately began to get to work to restore access. Based on the failure scenario, there was a mix of infrastructure software and human intervention that was needed to bring the core infrastructure back online. Requiring this kind of human intervention is not the norm for our services and added significant time to the restoration.

From that point onward, the team brought back access in waves throughout the evening. The majority of the impacted mailboxes were fully restored before midnight and the rest completed by 5:30 AM.

Source: Outlook Blog

About Author

Pradeep, a Computer Science & Engineering graduate.