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Leap year 2012 outage hits Microsoft Windows Azure

A leap year date glitch caused a 12-hour outage to Microsoft customers' ability to manage Windows Azure services. Does anyone remember Y2K?

You'd think that Microsoft's Windows Azure public cloud service would be prepared for leap year, but you'd be wrong.

Beginning at about 5:45 p.m. Pacific Time on February 28, many Azure customers around the world experienced an outage of Azure Service Management functions, according to Microsoft.

For most users, the outage didn't affect delivery of their services but rather their ability to manage them.

Microsoft claims most customers had their management capabilities restored within 12 hours of the leap year 2012 outage, although for some users, that hadn't happened until well past 24 hours after the outage began.

According to Microsoft, the Azure engineering team deployed a fix which resolved the issue for most customers, but some were still affected in three major sub-regions -- North Central U.S., South Central U.S., and North Europe.

Microsoft is posting hourly updates to the situation on the Azure Service Dashboard to keep customers informed as to their status.

"Incoming traffic may not go through for a subset of hosted services in this sub-region. Deployed applications will continue to run. There is no impact to storage accounts either," noted one post to the dashboard.

The apparent culprit, according to the dashboard, was a certification issue "triggered on 2/29/12 [Greenwich Mean Time]."

Despite the global impact of the outage, however, the damage done to Azure's reputation may not be as bad as it could have been -- since most users' services continued to run.

“I think customers will accept this, although they'll be upset,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “Amazon has had total outages and survived very well, so I don't think this will have a lasting effect.”  

Amazon's cloud service crashed in August 2011, following a four-day outage in April last year.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has had to deal with outages either: Azure went dark in 2009 and last year, Microsoft's Office 365 cloud offering experienced outages.


Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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