Microsoft snafu calls into question its cloud reliability

If Microsoft can't keep its key license-management site running, how can you trust the software giant to host your infrastructure in its cloud?

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Because resellers weren't getting information from Microsoft, they couldn't tell their customers how to proceed. A reseller and systems integrator who posts under the name "Duke" had a customer who wanted a license for Access. Duke directed him to the Microsoft site, thinking it was back in operation. It wasn't. He writes, "Our customer is hopping mad. Any customers considering using Microsoft's cloud services take note, not just of the failure but of Microsoft's inability (or lack of concern) to keep customers apprised of the situation."

To make matter even worse, there was another, apparently related issue that caused problems too, says Gibbons. "The outage appears to have also affected a system called MOET, which distributors use to place certain licensing orders to Microsoft. This caused two- to three-week delays in orders being processed." And it didn't help at all that all this occurred in December, as companies closed out their budgets, he adds.

A shadow on the cloud
After customers were told the site would be up by Dec. 16, the date slipped two more days, and when it was finally running, the woes continued. "Jon" posted this: "Yes it is back up, but the problem remains. No way to add a new agreement, and the agreement I added over the phone doesn't show up either. Two full weeks of 'maintenance' yields nothing. We are right back where we started. Trash this project and bring back eOpen. It sucked, but it worked. This VLSC is just stupid. Stop it already."

One bright spot: Microsoft's techies used Twitter rather effectively to help some customers. And it's likely that the VLSC will be an improvement over the former clunky system -- once the bugs are really eliminated.

Other than those slightly saving graces, this whole episode stinks. It's bad enough that Microsoft was too quick to launch an important project without adequate testing, but leaving its customers hanging for so long is inexcusable.

The VLSC is not really a cloud service. But a number of posters on the Gibbons site note that it makes them wary of Microsoft's nascent cloud ambitions. "BurnandCandle" put it well, saying, "If this is the kind of service and reliability we can expect from the cloud, then count me out. The users that I support won't meekly accept some lame Web page apology instead of immediate access to their resources."

Update: Two and a half days after I asked  for Microsoft's response to the VLSC situation, I got the answer pasted below.  It's worth noting that while an apology is always welcome, there's no indication of when the problems will be over and what actually caused the issue. Saying there was an "issue with the registration system" doesn't explain anything anything. Meanwhile, I'm still getting notes from users who can't access the system.

"We apologize to our partners and customers for the inconvenience that they have been through during the upgrade improvements for the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) site. In standard systems testing, we encountered an issue with the registration system.  While the vast majority of partners and customers are able to access the system, there remain some issues that are causing difficulties for some and it has taken us longer than expected to correct these issues. We are taking all necessary steps to resolve the situation and we are working with each impacted customer or partner to restore permissions if they can't be resolved online. We understand the inconvenience that this causes and greatly value doing business with our partners and customers."

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