[LINK] 'Cloud Computing doesn't fly'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Sep 28 07:42:13 EST 2010

[Airline reservation, check-in and boarding systems are hardly 
critical from the viewpoint of survival of the species, or even 
public safety.  But they can be for the survival of individual 

[The Virgin Blue event appears to have established that:
-   solid-state memory isn't necessarily more reliable than disk-drives
-   outsourced service provider and Accenture subsidiary Navitaire,
     whose New Skies system is used by 70 airlines, incl. Virgin Blue
     and Tiger, failed to switch over to what is presumably a 'warm-site'
     fallback arrangement, and instead tried to fix the hardware failure
-   an 18-hour outage isn't *quite* long to drive an airline bankrupt

Back-up for airline's check-in system delayed for 18 hours
Date: September 28 2010
The Sydney Morning Herald
Rick Feneley and Paul Tatnell

The Virgin Blue check-in system that crashed and left tens of 
thousands of passengers stranded was meant to be backed up by a 
parallel ''disaster recovery system'' within three hours, but it did 
not work for 21 hours.

When a hardware failure crippled the system at 8am on Sunday, it 
created a cascading crisis: the airline was forced into manual 
operations; 400 flights and almost 50,000 passengers were disrupted; 
113 services were cancelled. At least 18 more flights were cancelled 
yesterday as Virgin Blue dealt with the backlog of angry passengers.

Since June, Virgin Blue has been using a check-in and reservation 
system provided by Navitaire, a subsidiary of the American firm 

Navitaire has a recovery system on a separate server, Virgin Blue's 
group executive of operations, Andrew David, said yesterday.

''That system was supposed to come up within about three hours,'' Mr 
David said. ''But it wasn't until 5 o'clock this morning - 21 hours 
later - that we got the back-up system up and running.''

The Herald understands Navitaire told Virgin Blue on Sunday morning 
that the back-up would be working within the three hours, then made 
assurances throughout the day.

The airline put up about 1000 passengers in hotels on Sunday night. 
It moved almost 50,000 passengers yesterday and by late in the day 
the backlog was down to about 6000, most of whom were to be put on 
flights last night. Some spent a second night in hotels before the 
last - ''in the tens, not the hundreds'' - were to be cleared today.

All passengers would be reimbursed for taxis and accommodation worth 
up to $220 a night. They would be offered a free flight as 
compensation. ''Clearly, we will be looking for compensation [from 
Navitaire],'' Mr David said, ''but our focus now has been on our 

Navitaire found the original failure ''relatively quickly'', Virgin 
Blue said, but a decision to attempt to repair it ''proved less than 
fruitful and also contributed to the delay'' in switching to the 
recovery system. Jetstar and Tiger Airway also use Navitaire but both 
said they had robust systems to deal with IT failures.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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