Salesforce.com suffers service outage after operations failure

Almost 70,000 customers experienced unexplained downtime afer a data center failure at Salesforce.com's only operations center in Silicon Valley.

Software as a Service (SaaS) provider Salesforce.com suffered a widespread outage to its service yesterday, resulting in almost all of its 68,000 customers experiencing more than an hour of downtime.

The ten-year-old company, far and away the largest SaaS provider on the market, said on its website that systemic failure in its data center took out both normal operations and backup systems.

"[Salesforce.com] experienced a double failure which resulted in access to the storage subsystems to become unavailable. The Salesforce.com team had to reboot systems to restore connectivity," said an incident report on its status page.

Salesforce.com called the incident the result of a "storage tier anomaly." Tiered storage moves data to different storage devices according to need, and an "anomaly" likely means there was a catastrophic failure in storage line applications or devices, such as a SAN power outage.

Salesforce.com reportedly runs its entire operation out of an Equinix data center in Silicon Valley and replicates customer data to Equinix facilities on the East Coast. The firm has announced plans to expand operations to other data centers in Asia and Europe in 2010 but has not yet done so.

The outage may not have put customer data at risk of permanent loss, but it is a severe dent in the company's reputation for reliable service. It also may cause customers to rethink Salesforce.com's aggressive software lock-in, especially in its Force.com Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. Force.com is built on a proprietary software language and cannot be used outside of Salesforce.com's own services, though it can be integrated with outside applications and services.

Salesforce.com touts its security and reliabilty as a specialized skill customers are unable to duplicate on their own. The company also guarantees a wide range of service-level agreements (SLAs). It is unknown what the outage could cost the company in chargebacks. Smaller customers will likely have to lump it and swallow the outage, but high-profile Salesforce.com customers like Dell, Alltell, Fujitsu and Google are unlikely to be satisfied with just a mea culpa.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer for SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at cbrooks@techtarget.com.

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