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Blob Front-End Bug Bursts Microsoft Azure Cloud

11-hour intermittent global outages helped along by operator error

2 min read
Blob Front-End Bug Bursts Microsoft Azure Cloud
Illustration: Getty Images

IT Hiccups of the Week

It being the Thanksgiving holiday week in the United States, I was tempted to write once more about the LA Unified School District’s MiSiS turkey of a project, which the LAUSD Inspector General fully addressed in a report [pdf] released last week. If you like your IT turkey burnt to a crisp, over-stuffed with project management arrogance, served with heapings of senior management incompetence, and topped off a ladleful of lumpy gravy of technical ineptitude, you’ll feast mightily on the IG report. However, if you are a parent of the over 1,000 LAUSD school district students who still have not received a class schedule nearly 40 percent of the way into the academic year—or a Los Angeles taxpayer for that matter—you may get extreme indigestion from reading it.

However, the winner of the latest IT Hiccup of the Week award goes to Microsoft for the intermittent outages that hit its Azure cloud platform last Wednesday, disrupting an untold number of customer websites along with Microsoft Office 365,  Xbox Live , and other services across the United States, Europe, Japan, and Asia. The outages occurred over an 11-hour (and in some cases longer) period.

According a detailed postby Microsoft Azure corporate vice president Jason Zanderon, the outage was caused by “a bug that got triggered when a configuration change in the Azure Storage Front End component was made, resulting in the inability of the Blob [Binary Large Object] Front-Ends to take traffic.”

The configuration change was made as part of a “performance update” to Azure Storage, that when made, exposed the bug, and “resulted in reduced capacity across services utilizing Azure Storage, including Virtual Machines, Visual Studio Online, Websites, Search and other Microsoft services.” The bug, which had escaped detection during “several weeks of testing,” caused the storage Blob Front-Ends to go into an infinite loop, Zander stated. “The net result,” he wrote, “was an inability for the front ends to take on further traffic, which in turn caused other services built on top to experience issues.”

Once the error was detected, the configuration change was rolled backed immediately. However, the Blob Front-Ends needed a restart to halt their infinite looping, which slowed the recovery time, Zander wrote.

The effects of the bug could have been contained, except that Zander indicated someone apparently didn’t follow standard procedure in rolling out the performance update.

“Unfortunately the issue was wide spread, since the update was made across most regions in a short period of time due to operational error, instead of following the standard protocol of applying production changes in incremental batches.”

Zander apologized for the “inconvenience” and says that it is going to “closely examine what went wrong and ensure it never happens again.”

In Other News…

Polish President Says Voting Glitch Doesn’t Warrant Vote Rerun

RBS Hit With £56 Million Fine for “Unacceptable” 2012 IT Meltdown

Wal-Mart Ad Match Scammed for $90 PS4s

Computer Problems Close South Australian Government Customer Service Centers

British Columbia Slot Machines’ Software Fixed After Mistaken $100K Payout

Washington State Temporarily Closes Health Exchange Due to Computer Issues

Software Bug in Washington State Department of Licensing Fails to Alert Drivers to Renew Licenses

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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