Unless you work in the publishing industry, or some creative adjunct like marketing communications, you probably missed a lot of the drama of the last 36 hours during which Adobe suffered a significant failure of its Creative Cloud systems that kept millions of subscribers locked out and unable to work for more than a full day.
But even if you missed the ensuing social media riot, you’ll likely hear the fallout for some time to come. For anyone who has ever questioned the propriety of consigning critical systems to the cloud, yesterday was a red-letter day. This may have a failure in Adobe’s systems, but the entire cloud industry is going to suffer a black eye from this left hook.
The problems began around 5 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday when Adobe users could not log in to their Creative Cloud accounts. The problem lasted until around 9:30 p.m. Thursday and was ultimately blamed on faulty database maintenance.
“Several Adobe services were down or unreachable for many of you over the last 24 hours,” Adobe said in a statement. “The failure happened during database maintenance activity and affected services that require users to log in with an Adobe ID.
“We want to apologize for this outage because we know how critical our services are to you and how disruptive it’s been to those of you who felt the impact. We understand that the time it took to restore service has been frustrating, but we wanted to be as thorough as possible. We have identified the root cause of this failure and are putting standards in place to prevent this from happening again.
“We are aware that we didn’t meet your expectations (or ours) today.”
The resolution, slow by Internet standards, was cold comfort to Adobe users, many of whom still smarting over the software makers strong-arm tactics to force customers into subscriptions for its cloud-based services. Last May, the company said it would no longer offer traditional, boxed versions of its most popular titles — which include Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator and InDesign – leaving the de facto standards in design and publishing available mostly through the cloud exclusively.
There are still local versions of the core applications in Adobe Creative Cloud, bust system relies heavily on cloud assets for synching, sharing and a number of core functions like typeface and font access, for example.
The social media response to Adobe’s system failure was as swift and furious as you’d expect.
— Tom Edwards (@tomjamesedwards) May 15, 2014
— Benjamin Williams (@benjaminjosephw) May 16, 2014
— Alan George (@superalan) May 15, 2014
@Adobe thanks for showing the world that the cloud sucks. This is why I won’t use cloud services. Unreliable, epic fail, thx for the laugh.
— Tristan (@tryoung) May 16, 2014
— Alan Edwards (@alantedwards) May 16, 2014
While the Twitterverse has calmed substantially in the past few hours, with most of those complaining now scrambling to get back to work and cancelling weekend plans to catch up, the blowback of the outage is likely to continue for some time in industry circles that are still debating the reliability of the cloud and the wisdom of making big bets on it when real business is on the line.
Anyone who has ever tried to sell cloud services to a skittish client knows to anticipate a few uncomfortable questions, mostly beginning with “What happens if…?”
The toughest hurdles to broad cloud computing adoption in business have always focused on the end user’s sense that they are giving up control of a vital part of their enterprise. They fret about turning over critical data, but also the long-term security, stability and integrity of that information as well. The very idea of cloud vendor lock-in is anathema to most CIOs.
For an industry that’s still trying to work its way past the hit it took in the Edward Snowden-NSA surveillance scandal, the Adobe debacle is certainly not going to help matters. End users will be rethinking their position relative to the cloud in their organization. Vendors like Adobe need to do the same thing. If the industry truly believes in the ubiquity of the cloud, it needs to do a much better job of structuring its systems and executing remediation to keep cloud looking like more of a solution and less of a problem.
Adobe failed at that this week. Every cloud provider and partner is going to pay a price for that.
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