Saturday, 10 September 2011

Microsoft Outage - A Lesson in Humility

At approximately 8pm Pacific Daylight Time to 11.30pm the same day on 8 September, Microsoft Office 365 experienced a GLOBAL outage.

Luckily for us Brits that was in the middle of the night and realistically if you are going to have an outage, after business hours on the West Coast ain't bad. But this wasn't a local or regional outage - this was the big one. All users got nobbled.

In my Inbox I saw nothing suspicious or to tell me something had occurred although Microsoft acknowledge that some users are still experiencing problems.

Rather generously, Microsoft have refunded 25% of one month's fees to all users.

There is no doubt that this is a serious setback to Microsoft and it follows recent outages on their BPOS system - their reliability story which they tout so much is looking rather ropey. 

Microsoft chose a pathway which places them straight in the firing line with their customers. By not allowing the active syndication of their software by any other companies except some Telcos who have sold precious little, they have assumed responsibility not just for the manufacture but the delivery of the software.

Further, their strategy was so direct that they bypassed all channel members to have the contracts direct with customers. So there is no one to share the blame with, there are no resellers to take the initial blow by the customers, Microsoft are the one and only company to blame here.

But it wasn't for the want of trying. Big Distributors offered to share the pain by actively asking Microsoft to become syndicators to the thousands of resellers and millions of customers they service. In shallow hindsight, this would have spread the risk and reduced the chances of ALL customers receiving the same outage at the same time. It would also have put the responsibility of dealing with the end users several rungs in the supply chain ladder below them.

Finally, they could have deflected criticism that this is a software led issue, casting the shadow on Microsoft's capability to manufacture the product as well. By having the 'deliverers' assume the responsibility they could have blamed the delivery mechanism rather than the software.

Distributors have been struggling to find their place in the value chain in the world of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft have been very blunt about what value Distributors and Resellers can add in the delivery of the product and service.

Well, Microsoft, here's your answer. This could have been limited to a regional or even localised outage of a single channel player. Instead, every single user of Microsoft Office 365 experienced the outage and every single one will get the refund.

By adopting Google's strategy of direct delivery, Microsoft exposed themselves to the main weakness in the newcomer's strategy. Doesn't look such a bright idea now, does it?

My strong advice to Microsoft? Don't have your staff be so damn rude to Distributors and Channel about their potential value in the new world of Cloud. Remember the old adage, 'In the journey to the top be very careful on whose face you tread on the ladder up as it will be the same faces you see on the way down.'

Saturday morning philosophy. You can't be it.

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