Microsoft says it will recover Sidekick data – but we still need to know more

Hopeful news at last for customers of T-Mobile Sidekick, who were told that their cloud-stored data had been lost. Roz Ho, Coporate Vice President of Premium Mobile Experiences – how hollow that sounds right now – says:

We are pleased to report that we have recovered most, if not all, customer data for those  Sidekick customers whose data was affected by the recent outage.  We plan to begin restoring users’ personal data as soon as possible, starting with personal contacts, after we have validated the data and our restoration plan. We will then continue to work around the clock to restore data to all affected users, including calendar, notes, tasks, photographs and high scores, as quickly as possible.

That’s the best outcome from a bad situation, though even considered as an extended outage it is unacceptable service, but leaves many questions unanswered. Microsoft still has not really told us how the problem occurred. Ho says:

We have determined that the outage was caused by a system failure that created data loss in the core database and the back-up. We rebuilt the system component by component, recovering data along the way.

Sure; I think we all know that there was a “system failure that created data loss.” However, we all also suspect that there was a human failure that caused normally failsafe systems to fall over.

I read in the LA Times:

Microsoft is now emphasizing that the data loss, and the problems that led to it, were limited to a segment of the company’s network that is separate from its core cloud infrastructure. 

“The Danger Service platform, which experienced the outage, is a standalone service operating on non-Microsoft technologies, and is not related to Microsoft’s cloud services platform or Windows Live," Microsoft spokesperson Tonya Klause wrote in an e-mail.

Sorry, that is not good enough. Danger has been part of Microsoft for long enough that customers cannot reasonably be expected to distinguish it from other services run by the company. The technology is uses is an internal matter.

This AppleInsider article about the Microsoft’s mobile strategy and the Danger debacle is devastating, if true. The writer claims to have “engineers familiar with Microsoft’s internal operations who spoke with us,” one of whom said, “no one really grasps how dysfunctional Microsoft has become.” It paints a picture of a mobile device and OS strategy in disarray, a failed acquisition of a company with a promising product and service, and incompetence in handling the Danger service.

All this is rumour and maybe these sources are just disgruntled employees or ex-employees with grudges to settle. In the absence of facts though, rumours will fly. Currently we have just one fact: a catastrophic system failure for Sidekick customers.

Tell us more, or we will assume the worst.

Update

Another version of the story via Mary Jo Foley, who quotes “one of my Microsoft sources”:

(T)he data loss issue was caused by a hardware update on the existing Danger service that had NOT been ported over to a Microsoft platform and the issue was NOT part of a transition to an MS back end. It was an Oracle dB and Sun SAN solution that got a bad firmware update and the backup failed.

though she adds:

I’ve also heard that foul play has not been ruled out because the failure was so catastrophic and seemingly deliberate.

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