Research in Motion was in the news today — for a service outage for most or all Blackberry users in North America. They made the national TV news, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and several hundred newspapers and online websites. Somehow, RIM didn’t think that its biggest news of 2008 was worth mentioning on its home page, news pages or its support page. RIM was also late to explain its outage last April.
Various accounts place the outage at three-five hours. It seems to have affected all its major North American customers: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the US with Rogers and Bell Canada in Canada.
So this is our second major Blackberry outage in the past year, which has already seen outages for Skype and VOIP services. Unlike Skype P2P (which is free) and VOIP (which is a commodity), this is a premium business service — presumably something where people are expecting enterprise-quality reliability.
Perhaps network reliability is more than just the old 99.999% level promised by the old Ma Bell. It seems like the complexity of modern, software-controlled digital systems is inherently more risky than POTS. The Skype outage was due to servers crashing due to Microsoft pushing a Windows fix, while some of the startup VOIP services seem to vulnerable to single point of failure.
I wonder what the reliability is for Microsoft’s enterprise mail services? It seems like RIM will be vulnerable in the near term.