January 20, 2011

2 Min Read
Microsoft and Google: Is 99.9% Cloud Uptime Good Enough for Partners

By samdizzy

Microsoft and Google are busy touting their cloud reliability to customers and partners — offering a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee. But I’ve got to say: Three-nines reliability doesn’t really impress me, especially since channel partners are essentially helpless when cloud services go dark on end-customers.

The story starts with a war of words. Google last week claimed 99.984 percent uptime for its hosted Gmail service in 2010. Now, Microsoft is claiming 99.9-plus percent uptime for BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and other SaaS applications that channel partners can resell to end customers.

But what exactly does Microsoft’s “99.9-plus” percent uptime statement mean — 99.9001 or 99.999? There’s a huge difference. Let’s do some quick math:

  • 99.9% uptime is 8.77 hours of downtime per year

  • 99.99% uptime is 52.60 minutes of downtime per year

  • 99.999% uptime is 5.26 minutes of downtime per year

For many businesses, I guess 99.9% uptime is quite good. But I’ve got a hunch some channel partners want closer to 99.99% uptime. Some channel partners got badly bruised when Microsoft’s BPOS service suffered at least three partial outages in the August and September timeframe of 2010. I think the outages were one of the reasons Microsoft decided to dump the BPOS cloud brand, and move to the Office 365 cloud brand sometime in 2011.

No doubt, Microsoft and Google both are working hard to improve their cloud reliability. Google has even taken steps to adjust its service level guarantees. According to IDG:

Google’s uptime commitment remains at 99.9 percent for the Business and Education versions of the suite, but the company will now log every moment of downtime, whereas before it only counted outages of 10 or more consecutive minutes.

In addition, downtime due to planned maintenance work will now count against the SLA guarantee. Previously, planned maintenance outages were exempted from the SLA.

Those are positive steps by Google. We’ll be watching to see if Microsoft adjusts its own service level agreements (SLAs) once Office 365 debuts sometime in 2011.

In the meantime, I think there’s somewhat of a disconnect between cloud computing companies and the channel. While Microsoft and Google tout their 99.9% uptime guarantees, I think VARs and managed services providers want even better guarantees — especially as demanding vertical market customers like legal firms, financial services firms and health care providers explore cloud services.

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