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Microsoft's Visual Studio Online suffers major service outage

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August 15, 2014

Microsoft's Visual Studio Online services for software developers are in the midst of a total service outage that has lasted for more than five hours, and nobody seems to know when it will be back up.

Microsoft is blaming a database bug for the interruption. The services, which were launched in November 2013 to coincide with the general availability of Visual Studio 2013, are hosted on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, and are available at a number of monthly subscription levels.

The services offer a variety of cloud-based enhancements for the Visual Studio IDE, including source code version control, a hosted build service, load testing, a basic online code-editing environment, and telemetry data that can give insights into application performance and stability.

The stability of Visual Studio Online itself wasn't so appealing yesterday, however. Beginning at around 7:30 am Pacific Time, users began reporting trouble accessing any of the services and performance issues when they were able to login.

Before long, the Azure service status page was reporting that Visual Studio Online was experiencing a multi-region full service interruption.

After about an hour of investigating the various issues, Microsoft reported that its DevOps engineers had decided to roll back some changes they had made to the infrastructure in the last 24 hours, in hopes that this would address the problems.

"The actual root cause is still under investigation, but initial analyzis is indicating that a contention in our core database seems to be causing blocking and performance issues in the services," the team wrote on the Visual Studio Online service blog.

"Our DevOps teams have identified a couple of mitigation steps and currently going thru various validations as a group," Microsoft added.

But even after reverting those changes, Microsoft reported that its database issues seemed to persist, and the last time we checked in, they were still down. We'll keep you updated on how the issue gets resolved.

In other IT news

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) says it has acquired Sepaton, a high-end enterprise deduping backup service.

Sepaton used to have a rewarding deal with Hewlett Packard until the StoreOnce came along.

The news was announced by Sean Moser, a senior vice president for HDS' global portfolio and product management.

Sepaton will now be run as a wholly-owned independent subsidiary, however. HDS calls it "a leader in incredibly fast, scalable, and cost-efficient purpose-built backup appliances (PBBA)."

But Gartner's magic quadrant for deduping backup appliances suggests otherwise-- Sepaton is positioned just over the boundary from the niche vendors into the visionary's category, well behind Exagrid and nowhere near the leaders' quadrant.

But Sepaton (turn it backwards and its name spells 'No Tapes') must be a good fit for HDS.

HDS says the acquisition "is part of a larger data protection strategy that offers enterprise customers comprehensive data protection that is scalable and integrated."

Further Moser says-- "This acquisition better enables us to help our customers reduce the cost of protection, enable more data to be protected against disaster, and offer greater flexibility where or how it is protected."

He adds that "Sepaton and HDS have partnered for many years, and have a number of mutual customers." The PBBA growth prospects are good. IDC reckons its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 19.2 percent to a $5.3 billion market in 2015, according to Moser.

Sepaton has some 3,000 customers and that number should increase, HDS says, with its channel pitching the Sepaton message to its customers.

HDS also wants to extend Sepaton's technology-- "We intend to leverage [the Sepaton] team to aggressively develop next generation solutions that will integrate with other HDS assets, such as storage and copy creation, and management software."

How much did HDS pay for the company? It isn't saying. Sepaton was founded in 1999 and its total funding is said to be $98 million.

HDS' announcement strategy is different. It hasn't issued a press release, just the Moser blog. The news is blazoned across the home page on Sepaton's website and mentioned as a subsidiary item on HDS' site with a link to the Moser blog.

It gives HDS, which acquires companies shrewdly, a nice high PBBA gap-filler and they may extend the product down-market.

In other IT news

For the past several years, the internet community would have been happy that engineers could find ways in improving the venerable TCP/IP protocol. The latest, from researchers at the University of Cincinnati, addresses shortcomings in the protocol's behavior on wireless networks.

Since the advent of wireless networks instead of Ethernet cable is now the default internet connection for most devices.

The TCP/IP protocol is a key component of network performance. But as the researchers from the University of Cincinnati's Centre of Distributed and Mobile Computing recently discovered, the combination of a lossy physical layer and the TCP/IP's congestion control algorithms can hamper network performance.

The proposal put forward by the university is dubbed TCP-Forward, and is built on the prior work done in a protocol called TCP-Vegas, which uses the round trip time (RTT) to help decide whether a network is experiencing congestion or packet loss.

To TCP-Vegas, TCP-Forward adds Fountain Codes, which are already present in protocol stacks such as IEEE 802.11n (Wi-Fi), CDMA 2000, EV-DO, 3GPP and 10 GBase-T Ethernet.

The paper explains-- “Instead of using a feedback channel to notify the source if the sent data successfully arrives at the destination, network redundancy is introduced to make sure the destination node can get the original data even if the transmission channel drops some packets.”

TCP-Forward is also useful in multi-hop wireless networks, because only the receiver and not the intermediate nodes needs to worry about packet decoding.

“Redundancy is introduced at the sender to provide reliability, but explicit acknowledgements are still sent by the receiver. But different from regular TCP congestion control algorithms, this acknowledgement is only used to move the coding window, which in turn slides the TCP congestion window. Duplicate acknowledgements will not incur TCP to reduce its transmission rate, nor will it change any parameters used in the congestion avoidance algorithms in TCP,” the paper adds.

The result is a protocol that can maintain better throughput than protocols like TCP-Reno or TCP/NC (network coding) in the presence of packet loss, while at the same time maintaining far better latency than TCP/NC solutions because of its lower processing overhead, particularly in handling larger packets.

In other IT news

Hybrid flash/disk array supplier Nimble Storage said this morning that it has refreshed its product line.

As suggested by a few of its customers, the company has replaced its entry-level and midrange products with ones driven by faster processors.

Hybrid arrays offer a combination of flash speed and disk capacity and lower cost per GB, offering much of the performance of all-flash arrays and with greater storage capacity.

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There are 3 hybrid array startups, all with specialized software and hardware-- pre-IPO Tintri and Tegile, and post-IPO Nimble.

It had a three-product line up in June with the CS-200, CS-400 and the high-end CS-700s, which can be clustered as an added feature.

The CS-200s and 400s are now discontinued and were replaced with the CS-300 and CS-500 lines.

The CS-300 is categorized as a base performance line, the CS-500s are high performers, and the CS-700s are the extremely high performers, with the clustered CS-700s being the ultimate performers.

Nimble says the CS-210 and CS-215 provide value and performance for small to medium-sized IT organizations or remote offices, for workloads such as Microsoft Exchange and VDI.

The CS-300 is ideal for midsize IT organizations or distributed sites of larger companies. It offers the best capacity per dollar for workloads such as Microsoft applications, VDI, or virtual server consolidation. The CS-300 delivers 1.6 times more IOPS than the CS-215.

The CS-500 offers advanced performance for larger-scale deployments or IO-intensive workloads, like larger-scale VDI, and Oracle or SQL Server databases, and provides the best performance and IOPS per dollar.

Overall, the CS-500 achieves five times the performance of the CS-215. The CS-700 is designed for consolidating multiple large-scale critical applications with aggressive performance demands.

It delivers approximately seven times the IOPS of the CS-215. The CS-300 and CS-500 both utilize Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs and deliver 50 percent more performance than the products they replace, the company claims.

They can use an All-Flash Shelf to support tens of terabytes of flash in a scale-out cluster. Networking options are 10 Gbase-T, Gbit-E, and Gbit-E SFP, plus networking connectivity with the ability to interchange connectivity in the future.

Nimble introduced the CS-700 and all-flash shelf in June of this year. In two months, it has refreshed its entire array line with higher-performing equipment.

The move should enable the company to make more waves among mainstream storage array customers. They find their existing suppliers' solutions more expensive and slower than the gear from the new hybrid array vendors, according to various comments we've heard recently. Both the CS-300 and CS-400 are available now.

Source: Microsoft.

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