Service Levels

Google is claiming it is much more reliable than M$ when it comes to Gmail/Hotmail.
“In 2010, the company says, Gmail was available to business users and consumers 99.984 per cent of the time – about seven minutes of downtime per month – and there was no scheduled downtime for end users. “We’re particularly pleased with this level of reliability since it was accomplished without any planned downtime while launching 30 new features and adding 10s of millions of active users,” the post reads.”

see TheRegister

Presumably M$ uses that other OS do to its business. This is what I would expect knowing about that other OS’s re-re-reboots, critical updates and malware. If M$ cannot do any better than 46 times worse than Google, they will get their butt kicked out of the cloud in short order. They will have to rely on their sacred cash-cows, that other OS and Office, until people finally catch on to the fact that M$ doesn’t make good software.

A typical GNU/Linux server can do 99.9% up-time on its own. With an automated failover cluster you get Google-like reliability. You stay on the air as long as you can keep any part of the cluster up. The simplest way to get some of that reliability is to use DRBD (RAID 1 or TCP). This takes care of storage, hardware and power failures affecting one node at a time.

Suppose you re-boot once a month to maintain updated software on your server. If a re-boot takes 1 minute and there are no other failures, you have up-time of (86400 – 60)/86400 = .9999 . If you have two systems with similar up-time and you can control when the reboots take place, you have up-time of the combined cluster of 100% . Unfortunately, in the real world, accidents happen and 99.9% up-time for one node is about the best you can do considering all factors. With a 2-node failover cluster you could get 99.99% if no common disaster befalls both nodes.

From this analysis, I deduce M$ has a common disaster befalling all their nodes, that other OS. It is possible that M$ is so popular that it fails from overload, but that hardly is a defence for a business that’s “all-in” for the cloud. Netcraft’s Survey of the top 42 hosting sites shows only 4 in the top 42 run that other OS. Price and reliability probably move that trend.

In my own experience, using a single server with a backup server I get all the reliability I need for what I do. I do sleep sometimes and do not need services 24×7. Google does pretty well for cloud services using GNU/Linux. If M$ cannot do any better than a single server can, perhaps the world should not rely on M$ for IT. There is an alternative, GNU/Linux and Free Software.

Debian GNU/Linux has just entered “Deep Freeze” and could be releasing version 6.0 sometime this week. With 25000 packages on more than 12 architectures, having only 76 release-critical bugs is an amazing feat of reliablity. Imagine software that reliable on all your nodes. You can do it.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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4 Responses to Service Levels

  1. A few years after I “discovered” GNU/Linux, I became a “computer teacher”. Faced with a lab of 30 Lose ’98 machines, I set up a fairly normal personal computer with 1.5 gB RAM and two hard drives as a GNU/Linux terminal server. On hardware that would make one person comfortable with that other OS, I could entertain 30 simultaneous users and web applications on that one PC. I could not believe it myself as I watched RAM get used up during logins. One student fell off his chair that he had tipped back while “waiting”. Instead of waiting an interminable period, the desktop flashed on the students’ screens of the old PCs as clients. Previously students had about a 3% chance of a crash per class. After the conversion, no one crashed in half a school year. What a difference an OS makes in lives.

  2. oe says:

    Funny I had a similar experience when setting up a LAN and interfacing file/web server. Struggled with a then new Win2000 Server and IIS machine for almost 1 week of work (IT is NOT my duty, but this was a side task I was stuck with in our research team…). The final result was a flaky mess. Finally gave up and got a “Learn RedHat 6 !” type book with the two CD’s in the covers, I had bought from the local used bookstore for about 3$ some months before. One day later, by reading the “HOWTOS” and the book, had a robust apache and file server on some old scrapheap (a P90) hardware we had (At that time couldn’t bring myself to nuke the new screamer of the Other OS) that ran for some four years under a counter with no attention. And they had said Linux is hard to use…go figure

  3. My early experience was like that, too. I quit Hotmail when I was getting more spam than e-mail. Haven’t missed it at all.

    Where I last worked some folks were so locked-in to MSN, LiveWhatever etc. that they did not even realize Hotmail existed. They just thought of it as “the blue e” and my MSN, without knowing much about who provided the service or lack of it. They all complained of spam and did nothing about it.

  4. lpbbear says:

    One of my first eye opening experiences I had with Linux happened back around 1997 or so. At the time I was working for a PC support company that had a number of clients using NT. I had set up an NT server in my home office doing simple print and file sharing. It was incredibly flakey and mirrored the lack of reliability I was seeing at clients sites. Constant problems. One day I just went ballistic! I grabbed a set of Linux discs I had picked up from the software bargin bin locally, wiped NY off the system, and loaded Linux following a howto I had found on the Internet. After installing the basics I followed another howto on setting up Samba to act like a NT file/print server. That same system that couldn’t stay up a week without some failure or another under NT ran perfectly for a year and a half. Never crashed, never glitched, never an error. After a year and a half I got bored and installed a newer version of Linux that also went on for a similar time without problems. None.

    Recently I started getting calls from customers describing what they thought was some sort of virus attacking their email. In every case they were using some variant of HotMail, Windows Live etc. I checked out a few of them and could find no sign of an issue on their workstations and advised them that I thought this was likely some kind of problem at HotMail. A few days after all of this my Son and his wife dropped by for a few days. She uses Linux but also still uses a HotMail account. So while we were visiting and talking she starts describing these “weird” problems she is having with her email…..the same exact problems my customers were describing. I advised her to dump HotMail and later called all the customers who had called me and advised them to do the same.
    Why anyone uses HotMail is beyond my grasp of cosmic understanding.

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