Google cries foul over coverage of Apps outages

Company says recent Google Apps outages received a disproportionate amount of press, leading to misperception about stability of the hosted suite

Recent outages affecting Google Apps have received a disproportionately large amount of coverage from the technology press, resulting in a misperception about the stability of this hosted collaboration and communication suite.

That's the opinion of Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google's Enterprise unit, who recently chatted about this issue with IDG News Service, one of the news outlets that Google feels has blown the problem out of proportion.

Glotzbach's view, which he outlined in a recent blog post, is that the availability and performance of Web-hosted software, like Google Apps, gets more scrutiny because its outages occur publicly in the Internet cloud. The press coverage creates a wrong perception about the overall reliability of cloud applications versus that of on-premise software.

For example, Gmail's availability, measured as average uptime per user based on server-side error rates, has been north of 99.9 percent over the last year, which works out to an aggregate of 10 to 15 minutes of downtime per month, according to Glotzbach. That's lower, he points out, than the 30 to 60 minutes average unplanned downtime that, according to a recent Radicati Group, hit on-premise e-mail systems, which also cost more to acquire, install and maintain than Google Apps.

In the interview, Glotzbach put into what Google's considers a proper perspective the several outages in August and October that left some Apps users unable to access their Gmail service for 24 hours or more. An edited version of the conversation follows.

Would you like to recap the main points in your recent blog post about Gmail's and Apps' reliability and performance?

The reliability of the cloud overall is under more scrutiny than the average enterprise IT system reliability, and that's fine. I think it's good to hold the cloud to a higher standard. However, the perception potentially of people is maybe overstated relative to the reality. Right now, when we have the most minor of an issue that may affect an infinitesimal small number of people, it's being picked up and talked about as if it's affecting a large portion [of users.] I'm not saying that it's acceptable to have [outages]. I realize the expectation is 100 percent reliability and that's the goal: to be 100 percent reliable so that there is no discussion because it's always available. That's the gold standard we've gotten with Google.com and that's where we want to get Google Apps as well.

Why are you experiencing outages of 24-plus hours in Apps' Gmail?

It's very rare that any one user is out for that length of time. Even when there's a report of an outage, if the total duration of the outage was 24 hours or 12 hours, whatever the case may be, it's very common that during that period a user may be affected only for 10 minutes or something like that.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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