Google’s Blogger tight lipped about reasons for outage as service is restored

Google’s Blogger service experienced a major outage on Thursday May 12 that continued until service was finally restored on Friday, May 13 at 1030 AM PDT. Users were unable to log-in to the dashboard that enables bloggers to publish and edit posts, edit widgets and alter the design templates for their blogs. The outage coincided with the impending launch of a major overhaul to Blogger’s user interface and functionality, but a Blogger tweet asserted the independence of the outage from the upcoming redesign. Most notable about the outage, however, was Google’s tight lipped explanation of the technical reasons responsible for the outage in contradistinction to Amazon Web Service’s (AWS) exhaustively thorough explanation of its own service outage in late April. Blogger’s Tech Lead/Manager Eddie Kessler explained the Blogger outage as follows:

Here’s what happened: during scheduled maintenance work Wednesday night, we experienced some data corruption that impacted Blogger’s behavior. Since then, bloggers and readers may have experienced a variety of anomalies including intermittent outages, disappearing posts, and arriving at unintended blogs or error pages. A small subset of Blogger users (we estimate 0.16%) may have encountered additional problems specific to their accounts. Yesterday we returned Blogger to a pre-maintenance state and placed the service in read-only mode while we worked on restoring all content: that’s why you haven’t been able to publish. We rolled back to a version of Blogger as of Wednesday May 11th, so your posts since then were temporarily removed. Those are the posts that we’re in the progress of restoring.

Routine maintenance caused “data corruption” that led to disappearing posts and the subsequent outage to the user management dashboard. But Kessler resists from elaborating on the error that resulted from “scheduled maintenance” nor does he specify the form of data corruption that caused such a wide variety of errors on blogger pages. In contrast, AWS revealed that the outage was caused by misrouting network bandwidth from a high bandwidth connection to a low bandwidth connection on Elastic Block Storage, the storage database for Amazon EC2 instances. In their post-mortem explanation, AWS described the repercussions of the network misrouting on the architecture of EBS within the affected Region in excruciatingly impressive detail. Granted, Blogger is a free service used primarily for personal blogging, whereas AWS hosts customers with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. Nevertheless, Blogger users published half a billion posts in 2010 which were read by 400 million readers across the world. Users, readers and cloud computing savants alike would all benefit from learning more about the technical issues responsible for outages such as this one because vendor transparency will only increase public confidence in the cloud and help propel industry-wide innovation. Even if the explanation were not quite as thorough as that offered by Amazon Web Services, Google would do well to supplement its note about “data corruption” with something more substantial for Blogger users and the cloud computing community more generally.

Google plans overhaul of YouTube to compete with Netflix

Google is planning a major overhaul of YouTube that will enable it to provide streaming full length television and video content. The Mountain View search engine giant has reportedly allocated $100 million for the initiative to acquire content, finalize licensing agreements and execute the requisite technical challenges. Google plans to create channels such as “Sports” and “Drama” within YouTube containing original, professionally produced content that is proprietary to Google. According to the The Wall Street Journal, Google and YouTube executives have held meetings with Hollywood talent agencies such as Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor and International Creative Management to discuss the creation of original content. Google’s play to enter the video space is motivated by an effort to increase the amount of time spent by users on the site and thereby increase advertising revenue. Moreover, the company may decide to obtain additional revenue by offering select content to users on a paid or subscription basis. Google’s apparent decision to compete directly with Netflix signals intensified competition in the online streaming content space spearheaded by cloud computing vendors such as Amazon and Google that have the IT infrastructure to deal with the bandwidth considerations of delivering significant volumes of content to users on a daily basis. Amazon Prime, for example, offers its members access to 5000 streaming movies for an annual membership fee of $79.

Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonenn notes that Google’s plans to revamp YouTube constitute a significant threat to Netflix because of the sheer omnipresence of YouTube across virtually all online platforms. That said, Netflix has thus far proven to be an unprecedented market leader in video content acquisition as evinced by its recent finalization of a licensing agreement with Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation to stream seven seasons of the TV series “Mad Men.” So far, YouTube has been less than successful in acquiring licensing rights to longer video content. Nevertheless, the stock price of Netflix has dropped significantly over the last week. Netflix’s shares rose today by 2.52% to close at $233.92 though the share price has fallen as compared to $239.97 at the close of April 6.