Updated Microsoft's cloudy platform, Windows Azure, is experiencing a major outage: at the time of writing, its service management system had been down for about seven hours worldwide.
A customer described the problem to The Register as an "admin nightmare" and said they couldn't understand how such an important system could go down.
"This should never happen," said our source. "The system should be redundant and outages should be confined to some data centres only."
Azure customers can at least take some comfort from how informative Microsoft has been, keeping them updated via the platform's online service page at least every hour.*
The service management system first began to have problems at 1.45am GMT (5.45pm PST), according to the page.
"We are experiencing an issue with Windows Azure service management. Customers will not be able to carry out service management operations," Microsoft said, adding that it was investigating the problem.
A couple of hours later, the Azure team said that the storage accounts in the cloud had not been affected and were still available to customers, but some hosted services could be hit by capacity problems. It later added that less than 3.8 per cent of hosted services had been affected.
By 4am GMT, Microsoft had figured out what was going on.
"We have identified the root cause of this incident. It has been traced back to a cert issue triggered on 2/29/2012 GMT," the software giant said.
For the next few hours, Microsoft tested the hotfix, before starting the rollout at 9am GMT this morning. The last update was at 9.30am:
We have started a gradual rollout of the hotfix in North Central US sub-region. As we proceed through the rollout, we will progressively enable service management back for customers. Further updates will be published to keep you apprised of the situation. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes our customers.
Cloud-pushers would have us all believe that their platforms are so backed up that they're practically foolproof and users will never have a problem getting at their cloud-based systems and data, but major outages at big firms belie their claims.
Windows Azure has been down before, collapsing for 22 hours back in 2009 when was still in its test phase and going down briefly in various areas at other times over the last three years, while Amazon, Google and other big companies punting cloudy services have also been caught out in the past. ®
* The service page went down soon after the article was published. We'll keep you updated as the situation unfolds...