Windows Azure goes down for early adopters

Microsoft's cloud-computing network crashes for almost 24 hours over the weekend

Users of Microsoft's cloud-computing network Windows Azure suffered an overnight outage over the weekend during which their applications being hosted on the network weren't available, Microsoft confirmed late Monday.

Currently only an test release of Azure is available, and some early adopters are running applications on it. For nearly a 24-hour period from Friday night until Saturday night Pacific Time, those users found that their applications were unreachable or in "stopped" or "initializing" states, Microsoft said in an e-mail from its public relations firm late Monday.

Microsoft first heard about the problem at about 10:30 p.m. PT Friday and resolved it by Saturday at 8:30 p.m. PT, the company said. The outage was detailed in a post on a Microsoft Developer Network forum.

Users can't expect an early test release of a product to run smoothly without hiccups. However, Azure is a proving ground for how well Microsoft will be able to support the development and deployment of hosted enterprise applications, for which even a short amount of down time is a big problem for customers.

Moreover, last week both Google and Microsoft had outages on their Gmail and Hotmail e-mail services. Outages raise questions about the ability of these companies and other online service providers to maintain a consistent quality of service for end users over the long term.

Microsoft unveiled Azure at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles in October and according to public comments made by CEO Steve Ballmer last month, plans to make the infrastructure generally available by November at this year's PDC.

Microsoft plans to give developers more information about how to build applications on Azure and use other features of the network at its annual MIX conference, which is scheduled to start Wednesday in Las Vegas. The company also will unveil new features of Azure at the event, according to an e-mail from its public relations firm.

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