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Why Is Less Than 99.9% Uptime Acceptable?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the gets-boring-to-stand-there dept.

Communications 528

Ian Lamont writes "Telcos, ISPs, mobile phone companies and other communication service providers are known for their complex pricing plans and creative attempts to give less for more. But Larry Borsato asks why we as customers are willing to put up with anything less than 99.999% uptime? That's the gold standard, and one that we are used to thanks to regulated telephone service. When it comes to mobile phone service, cable TV, Internet access, service interruptions are the norm — and everyone seems willing to grin and bear it: 'We're so used cable and satellite television reception problems that we don't even notice them anymore. We know that many of our emails never reach their destination. Mobile phone companies compare who has the fewest dropped calls (after decades of mobile phones, why do we even still have dropped calls?) And the ubiquitous BlackBerry, which is a mission-critical device for millions, has experienced mass outages several times this month. All of these services are unregulated, which means there are no demands on reliability, other than what the marketplace demands.' So here's the question for you: Why does the marketplace demand so little when it comes to these services?"

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because they've been conditioned (5, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617178)

Why does the marketplace demand so little when it comes to these services?

The marketplace has been duped into believing that this is the best technology can provide. People don't have time to know, understand, or research history and find that technology really can be reliable.

I'll get modded troll, but I lay much of this at Microsoft's feet. I laughed them off when I first heard of them and their goal of taking over the industry. After all, I'd been working on systems that ran 24x7 with five-9 reliability for years, and DOS/Windows couldn't touch that.

One time I had an opportunity to visit Microsoft and have lunch with a friend there. I figured while there I'd take the opportunity. I asked them in hushed tones, "Just how do you configure Windows so that you don't have to reboot it all of the time?" They looked at me like I was crazy.

Technology can provide reliability. The general public is no longer even aware that it's possible.

Re:because they've been conditioned (5, Insightful)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617228)

The reasons why Microsoft were so successful (in a business sense) are manifold, but one is not that their products were great, but that they were good enough. They accurately measured what people would put up with at different price points, and serviced the market accordingly. I think ISPs, telcos, etc have done likewise.

Re:because they've been conditioned (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617330)

I'll get modded troll, but I lay much of this at Microsoft's feet.

Truly, your courage is an inspiration to us all!

In fact, though, I can tell you that in the pre-Windows days, electricity had outages, television had outages, telephone service had outages, gas service had outages... For the same reason we have them today -- people aren't willing to accept the economic and aesthetic costs of providing those services at the level of reliability you and the author are demanding.

Incidentally, is it most people's experience that "We're so used [sic] cable and satellite television reception problems that we don't even notice them anymore"? There were some glitches in a broadcast of Zoolander on TBS last weekend, which I'll admit is cause for complaint. (Especially since one wiped out "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!") But on the whole, I can't say I've seen substantial problems when there wasn't a blizzard or hurricane, and if I'm forced to to stop watching TV for an hour or two, it's not the end of the world.

Reality Check (4, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617608)

In fact, though, I can tell you that in the pre-Windows days, electricity had outages, television had outages, telephone service had outages, gas service had outages...

I was born in 1964. I have no recollection of POTS telephone service ever being unavailable.

Electricity was expected to drop out a few times every summer, and until someone figures out how to tell lightning where to go, I expect it will continue to happen. In my part of Canada, however, power is continuously available from October to April no matter what. Even if you don't pay your bill. The only winter power outage of note I can think of offhand was the great Ice Storm of 1998 [] , one of the most spectacular cases of force majeure I've witnessed in my life.

In my part of the world, at least, power and telephone were life-and-death services and legislation mandated their reliability.

Re:because they've been conditioned (2, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617334)

The marketplace has been duped into believing that this is the best technology can provide.
I do not believe that this is the cause.

As is correctly noted above, there are only market pressures involved. When that's the case, customers rarely factor 7 or 8 different metrics (eg. price, quality, reliability etc.) into their decision making. Rather, they identify what they want, then find the cheapest supplier, and provided that there is no compelling reason to avoid the supplier, do the deal.

This means that suppliers concentrate on maintaining enough of a service that they can advertise without being sued, and getting the price down. They have no reason to do any more.

My mobile phone operator gives me a good phone, and cheap calls. But their data charges, and roaming charges are extremely uncompetitive. As data/roaming charges make up a small proportion of my bill, I can't justify prioritizing them when I am shopping around for a contract. I am rewarded with a good old gouging.

At what price? (5, Insightful)

NEOtaku17 (679902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617338)

"The marketplace has been duped into believing that this is the best technology can provide. People don't have time to know, understand, or research history and find that technology really can be reliable."

No. They believe it is the best the technology can provide at a given price. Why do people "put up" with cars that only give them X amount of protection in a car crash even though there is technology out there that would make them safer? Because they aren't willing to pay the marginal cost for the extra protection. Arguing about what is possible with technology is pointless. What matters is what a piece of technology can do at a given price.

Everything is a trade-off. The sooner Slashdot learns this the less we will have these stupid "Why don't consumers use the latest, greatest, most expensive technology? We need to force them somehow!" articles.

What is good enough? (1)

haus (129916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617506)

You make a good point.

Let's talk about home internet service via cable. The providers would love to charge you a great deal more to 'promise' that some packets will arrive more reliably for time sensitive packets such as VoIP or streaming media, but the reality is that the way things are these matters normally just work. So why would the customer want to pay more for a service that they are already getting.

It is true that sometimes things fail for various reasons, but it is also true that if you were to pay more, what you would likely get is QoS for the connections that you are using. The reality of this is that it would only save your skin if the problem was on your ISP and the problem was directly related to a shortage of bandwidth at some point on this network, hence your VoIP would lose out to someone else attempt to download the CNN page. It would do nothing to correct a temporary routing problem, or a failed handoff with another provider, thus many of the issues that you have would still exist despite the higher cost.

So the question becomes, how do you get someone to spend more when what they currently get is good enough?

Re:because they've been conditioned (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617366)

I'll get modded troll, but I lay much of this at Microsoft's feet.

On slashdot? I don't understand how people believe that bashing microsoft on slashdot will get them modded down. Has that EVER happened? I haven't been given modpoints in over 3 years because I am unbiased in the way that I use them (and meta-moderation by the apple/lunix fanboys has destroyed my "credibility"). Give it up. Your comment should be modded down as a troll, but that will never happen.

Send mail to test the uptime! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617384)

Re:because they've been conditioned (5, Interesting)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617404)

I think the term you're looking for is "managing expectations." Here's a little article about it from the IT side. [] It's something that Microsoft and teleco's have become so good at. If you keep expectations low and give them a little better, they'll be more than happy. If you give the same, but you promised the world, you get a bunch of unsatisfied customers.

Re:because they've been conditioned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617466)

And we've been conditioned by the fact that we can't even get reliable ELECTRICITY to our homes (if it does something totally unexpected, like rain) after, what, 130 years?

Compared to the monopolies that remain, the merely (semi) de-regulated industries seem to be performing well.

Re:because they've been conditioned (3, Interesting)

Rhaui (1249470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617584)

It has nothing to do with conditioning. They could easily bury power lines to prevent storm outages, but people don't want to pay the costs. That is what 9s in uptime is all about. Paying increasingly more for increasingly smaller additional uptime. I would rather pay my current rates than pay twice as much, but have less downtime. I can live for a day or two with out power after a major storm. If you can't then pay the extra your self and buy a generator. Don't try to force others to subsidize your service requirements.

Re:because they've been conditioned (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617472)

One time I had an opportunity to visit Microsoft and have lunch with a friend there. I figured while there I'd take the opportunity. I asked them in hushed tones, "Just how do you configure Windows so that you don't have to reboot it all of the time?" They looked at me like I was crazy.

In a certain sense.. you were crazy, at least at Microsoft.

The origins of an OS really show through a lot of the time. Windows started out as a single user OS, so rebooting was OK because the only person you messed up was the guy sitting in front of the screen. It eventually evolved into a multi-user OS, but the "just reboot!" mentality persists to this day.

Linux/Unix on the other hand started out life as a multi-user OS. Rebooting was a big no-no, because you'd affect countless people logged in, and you'd get yelled at for ruining someones work.

It's funny the attitude that comes from the users of each OS. Windows administrators categorically will try rebooting the damn thing first to fix any problem (and it usually works). Linux administrators will only try this as a last resort (and it almost never works).

Anyway, at Microsoft the idea that you can somehow tweak windows just right so rebooting isn't necessary is crazy. They designed the damn thing so "just reboot!" will fix any problem. This of course is an unacceptable solution to a lot of people out their, but for a lot of people it's obviously reality.

Re:because they've been conditioned (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617588)

Conditioning certainly has to be a big part of it. People put up with crappy wireless phone service because that they don't remember (or are too young to know) what an old-fashioned fully-wired telephone conversation sounds like. After a couple decades of cordless and wireless phones, the level of service has gone from "you can hear a pin drop" to "can you hear me now?"

Oh Zonk (4, Funny)

opec (755488) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617186)

Oh Zonk, I'm marking your story as "flamebait". :(

Simple (-1, Flamebait)

koh (124962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617192)

Because the marketplace are sheep. If you did not realize this before, sorry for the spoiler.

Not So Simple (4, Insightful)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617304)

To put it simply, it's the money stupid. It requires a lot more equipment and manpower to offer a high availability service. This extra cost results in higher prices. It can cost 1000% more a month for less than 1% more reliability. Think of a $400 a month T1 with a SLA versus a $40/month cable line. Being sheep has nothing to do with it.

The way it has always been (3, Insightful)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617196)

Complacent consumerism. "Hey, it's always been this way so they [service providers] must not be able to have 99.9% uptime. If they had the capability, they sure would provide it to us, their customers."

Re:The way it has always been (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617346)

While you deserve the mod points, it should also be noted that consumer expectation is strangled into submission within 20 minutes on the first support call they make to ask about better service quality.I know a guy who is locally famous because he will spend 4,5,6 or more hours on the phone with customer service, supervisors, managers and anyone on the board of directors that he can find a phone number for. What is he fighting for? discounted service or reparations for lost service(s). That's right, it takes hours on the phone to get one of those companies to either own up to, and pay for losses accrued by their customers through loss of service.

In truth, most consumers won't complain when they should, so there is no marketplace pressure on those businesses to aim for five nines uptime.

Re:The way it has always been (1)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617490)

A great point.

Not that it would happen, but it would be great to see an initiative of thousands of people who would take the time to demand the service to which they are entitled, even if it meant doing exactly what your friend did.

Would things change in the face of so many support-hours being consumed?

Re:The way it has always been (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617572)

Complaining doesn't create any marketplace pressure. Stopping the money flow does.

The cost (5, Interesting)

Introspective (71476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617200)

Probably because of the cost. I do network design for a fairly large telco, and let me tell you the cost goes up exponentially with the number of "9"s that the business asks for.

Re:The cost (4, Informative)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617244)

Exactly what I was thinking. I work for a CLEC, and I have a rough idea how much things cost -- compare what a Lucent 5E costs with what a top of the line Cisco router costs, and you have the answer why voice service achieves five-nines while data service typically does not.

Re:The cost (2, Insightful)

freebase (83667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617316)

Don't forget that the support costs on a 5E dwarf even the cost of most, if not all, Smartnet contracts.

Simply said, because the equipment isn't/hasn't been able to support it, the only way to build 5 9's or better has been to add more equipment, which increases operations costs, capital costs, etc across the board in an almost linear fashion.

The market has for the most part established the level of service available by establishing the price point the customer is willing to pay for said service.

People love to point towards the big bad telcos and other companies as monopolies and only being concerned about profit margins. They forget that those same profit margins are what drive the company's stock price, in turn causing growth in people's portfolios. It's a vicious cycle and won't end until enough people decide they have enough.

Re:The cost (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617418)

Cost of infrastructure obviously.
Especially when you consider how much infrastructure would be required using any wireless technology to provide enough of a solid RF blanket to be able to make that sort of guarantee. Do you want to see a cell tower every few blocks in your neighborhood?

And even then, how can you guarantee uptime over a transmission path, when the carrier has no control over the user equipment or the environment? (multi-path, 3rd party interference...)
How many times have you bounced your cell phone off the floor? And what was the quality of that handset to begin with?

Re:The cost (1)

kingrooster (966028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617486)

It's not just cost either. It's also growth. I work for an ILEC and our POTS services aren't experiencing any massive growth. If anything, it is shrinking as people move to cell phones and VoIP. On the other hand, our internet services are demanding more bandwidth, more networks, more infrastructure. You can't add all these things without downtime while simultaneously keeping it organized and running well. And as you add things to keep up with demand, you change a lot which has all sorts of unintended consequences.

The same thing applies to our cable television services. Adding more channels, HDTV, more HDTV channels, all digital... this is a lot of change which can not be accommodated without downtime and unintended consequences.

Re:The cost (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617362)

I would have settled for only 99% from comcast. The fact that the cable modem was only ~70% reliable is just embarassing, to this day I cringe when I hear that people are relying upon comcast for emergency calls. It would be out for hours every day, and we did ditch them for DSL. I think that in the several years since I switched the DSL was only out for 1 day due to interference from a wireless phone in the room. Removed the phone and haven't had trouble since.

I do agree that for most people 99.999% is over kill, for the most part I wouldn't notice it if it were only up 70% of the time if it were when I was asleep or out of the house. But I wouldn't settle for that either because sometimes I need to download something large and don't want to be waiting around for it to finish.

Bingo (4, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617372)

It's all about cost vs. the cost of downtime. You'll find in business lines such as the financial sector, customers are willing to pay for extremely high availability because time is indeed money. Business lines that have lower costs for downtime have to weigh availability vs. ROI.

The profits (1, Informative)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617442)

The government didn't always regulate phone companies. That started in 1984 when AT&T became too powerful. But AT&T became so powerful because it did a hell of an awesome thing with its network because it realized that better service equals more customers and more revenue. I recall hearing a story from a Bell Labs alum that they had a goal of handling annual peak call volumes on the busiest day of the year (Mother's Day). The day was worth $24 Million dollars in phone charges to them. They spent $5 Million on each of 2 different hardware architecture projects to get the system up and running to support the day. The monolithic centralized architecture failed, but distributed architecture (spreading the communications through 10-15 national "hubs" worked. The system was a success, and AT&T got to enjoy their lunch by servicing their customers the way a business ought to.

For data networks, their is simply too much clutter and competition to be able to reign in 99.999% rates of performance. We should be happy to get 99.9% from the mismatch of hardware running the routers and OSes which power the internet.

Re:The profits (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617582)

The government didn't always regulate phone companies. That started in 1984

No, regulation of phone companies began long before that [] .

the simple answer - we have more options... (3, Insightful)

studpuppy (624228) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617210)

So the simple answer is that I have more options. When my cell phone doesn't work, I have my desktop phone (or vice versa). or IM. Or email. Or fax.

Basically, we don't rely so much on a single system that a brief outage can be tolerated because there are alternatives to choose from.

This is also the basis of Clayton Christensen's theories on disruptive innovation - that a consumer of something (technology, etc.) is willing to trade off some of these aspects, like reliability, for cost or performance benefits (however you wish to define those benefits...).

Costs increase geometrically (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617216)

Because every nine will cause a geometric increase in costs.

Re:Costs increase geometrically (4, Informative)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617296)

Because every nine will cause a geometric increase in costs.


Uptime (%) Downtime 90% 876 hours (36.5 days)
95% 438 hours (18.25 days)
99% 87.6 hours (3.65 days)
99.9% 8.76 hours
99.99% 52.56 minutes
99.999% 5.256 minutes
99.9999% 31.536 seconds

I work for a software shop where we can do high availability, but more often than not, folks chose to lower the uptime expectation rather than pony up for the stupid money it takes to have the hardware / software / infrastructure to get there. Most companies know the customer will not pay the extra cash for the uptime, thus... you get what you pay for.

Here's an easy one. (5, Insightful) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617218)

Quoting the summary:

... after decades of mobile phones, why do we even still have dropped calls?
It's a little thing called physics. When you're traveling while using your phone, you may transit into dead zones [] . We could solve this by cutting down all the trees and flattening the landscape, but that might make some people angry...

Re:Here's an easy one. (1)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617272)

It's a little thing called getting hung up on, you mean.

Re:Here's an easy one. (1)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617302)

You beat me to the punch on this one. It was the first thing I thought when I read that question too. And regarding satellite TV/internet outages we also have a thing called "weather". Yes, they transmit data at wavelengths as far as possible from atmospheric absorption lines. But in cases of heavy rain/snow scattering at those frequencies effectively makes the atmospher opaque. You just can't have 100% reliable home satellite service (unless you live in the Atacama).

Re:Here's an easy one. (5, Interesting) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617454)

As a guy who does communications in the U.S. Navy, I can attest to this. If the United States military can't guarantee 99.999% uptime on communications in all conditions, what makes anyone think it's possible in the private sector?

Re:Here's an easy one. (2, Insightful)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617622)

People don't understand basic physics is the simple answer. Or they don't think about it beyond "it's not working right now". Until we have magical transmitters that can transmit at any wavelength in the spectrum all wireless communications are subject to weather interference. The only way to beat the weather right now is to have a physical connection (and even that's not 100% immune).

Re:Here's an easy one. (3, Funny) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617644)

The only way to beat the weather right now is to have a physical connection (and even that's not 100% immune).
That's a true statement. Hurricanes, fires, and tornadoes do have a way of reducing uptime in many cases. I suppose the network provider could always enter into an SLA with God to improve things, though. Similar deals with the devil have proved too costly in the long run.

Re:Here's an easy one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617616)

There is that and node capacity...which can drop a call if it can't handle the capacity. Cell Networks in Louisiana were literally over capacity after hurricane Katrina.

Node capacity can never be fixed with the current technology since its designed to fail at capacity spikes. You could definitely over-supply capacity, but you never know what the spike would be.

Low price or high-quality? (5, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617220)

You can have one or the other.

We're not talking about software, we're talking about hardware and man-hours. Those will never be free.

because its ridiculous (2)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617230)

'five nines' of uptime is a ridiculous and exaggerated expectation for pretty much anything technological for anything that is not life threatening.

Whenever people talk about 99.999 uptime for a service delivered over the internet I laugh in their faces.

Re:because its ridiculous (3, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617286)

I just did the math. 99.999 uptime is "less than 5 minutes per year" or "less than half a minute per year" depending if i stuck an extra 0 in there...

Clearly, a ridiculous number.

Re:because its ridiculous (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617468)

Four nines is less than an hour a year. Given the amount of time I spend asleep or out of the house, there's a good chance I wouldn't even notice this little downtime on my home Internet connection.

Re:because its ridiculous (1)

colmore (56499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617452)

There are other applications that would want that level of service.

Primarily reselling or offering an additional service yourself.

Think of it this way, if you were running a MMORPG, the uptime on your datacenter's internet connections is the *hard limit* on your game's uptime. No matter how hard you work to make your servers robust and redundant, you can't stay online more than your connection.

There's lots of market for 99.999% uptime and guaranteed fat pipes, and all that, but you're not going to shop for that kind of thing unless your life or business is at stake.

We expect miraculous technology to be available at consumer prices. Compromises have to be made. Now, that doesn't mean there can't be space for improvement via regulation. The US has one of the least regulated, most expensive, and least reliable cell phone networks in the world. I know a family from *Uganda* who moved here a few years ago and are just shocked at how bad the cell phone plans are here compared to what they could get in Africa. And this isn't in some cornfield, it's the metro Atlanta area.

So yeah, things could be better, but they're not going to meet industrial standards.

Re:because its ridiculous (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617618)

Quote "
'five nines' of uptime is a ridiculous and exaggerated expectation for pretty much anything technological for anything that is not life threatening."

Your statement might ring true were it not for the inconvenient fact that 5 nines was and still is common in the wired land-line telephone industry. It was common when you were growing up, it was common for your parents' generation.

Re:because its ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617642)

'five nines' of uptime is a ridiculous and exaggerated expectation for pretty much anything technological for anything that is not life threatening.

So; with people ditching their land line phones for cell phones; that would mean that they would depend on 911 on their cell phone. Couldn't that turn out to be an emergency?

Just my .02 cents.

Disclaimer; I am a former telco employee (wired).

More physics in action. (4, Funny) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617240)

mass outages several times this month
Was it converted to energy?

I can tell you why... (1)

netwiz (33291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617246)

It's not that customers will put up with it, it's that there are exactly zero providers willing to offer such a service. When every single vendor will simply tell the customer to go screw, what option is there? Let's say for the sake of argument that every single customer moves to another service when their existing provider has an outage. Since they're all having outages at the same rate, all it does is swirl the market about, accomplishing nothing. All the vendors will continue to have customers regardless of what they do as in almost all cases it's a situation of "where ya gonna go?" This business tactic failed for IBM in the 1980's, and is failing for Microsoft now, but where there's essentially a legal monopoly (like telecommunications) there's zero meaningful choice.

It's a market-wide problem. (2, Informative)

HazyRigby (992421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617254)

As consumers, we're made to feel helpless. The worst we can do (without litigation) to a company is complain or refuse to use their services, but what harm can that do to a giant conglomerate? And in situations in which one company has a monopoly in a certain area of the country, for example, consumers may not have the ability to switch or do without.

As a personal example, Comcast owes me a refund check for Internet services I canceled six months ago. If I, as a consumer, had allowed my debt to go unpaid for that long, my account would have been sent to collections long ago. But the problem is that most of the power--with the economics of the situation, with politicians, and so on--lies on one side of the table, and that power ain't with the consumer.

Re:It's a market-wide problem. (1) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617632)

If I, as a consumer, had allowed my debt to go unpaid for that long, my account would have been sent to collections long ago.
You could always send them a demand letter for full and immediate payment of the debt owed. Failing a timely response, you have the option of taking them to court for the amount of your claim plus attorney's fees and lost wages on the time spent dealing with the matter. If you're not owed a lot of money, this may not be a sensible route for your to take, but you still have the option.

Because we are patient (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617262)

Not everybody is a member of the "I WANT IT NOW!" generation. Most of us are still not particularly bothered if we can't get to some particular piece of information right this second. Some of us still remember how to go to the library. And some of us actually have interests that do not include being online. I know, it's hard to understand, but I don't think I could talk any faster. I'm conditioned that way.

Really so common? (5, Interesting)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617264)

Are these kind of outages really so common? Mobiles phones I absolutely agree with. ON the other hand, I literally cannot remember the last time I lost cable or my internet. I've literally lost power more frequently than either of them (maybe 4 times in the past year) and lost water once. Emails not making it to their destination--again, does this really happen? In the decade plus I've been using internet email, I can't off the top of my head ever think of any "lost" email unless it was sent to a wrong address or something.

Re:Really so common? (1)

passion (84900) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617432)

2 years plus baby! uptime 15:48:58 up 736 days, 1:41, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

Re:Really so common? (1) (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617480)

load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
Was it hibernating all that time?

Re:Really so common? (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617478)

ON the other hand, I literally cannot remember the last time I lost cable or my internet.
Hey! I've got an anecdote too! I spent a few years in a town where heavy rain would kill most of the town's cable tv & internet).

Hint: Just because you live somewhere without such problems does not mean they don't exist. Ditto for lost e-mail.

Re:Really so common? (0, Offtopic)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617550)

While I appreciate your smartass reply, as I myself am inclined to the occasional smartass comment, please see the FIRST sentence of my post where I ask "Are these kind of outages really so common?" I'm asking for data/anecdotes (data's just the plural of anecdote, right?), or whatever.


Re:Really so common? (2, Interesting)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617562)

I'm in exactly the same situation. I'm on Time Warner's fiber network for internet, most of the time my wireless router is the source of any internet troubles, or it's exterior to my connection to TW. I've lost power more times in the last 2 months than I have my cable in the past 2 years. Even then my cable outages are generally under an hour and it usually involves calling the local office and having them reset my box remotely. Takes maybe 10 min to fix. And as far as cell phones, I generally know where the dead zones are and avoid them. I rarely have dropped calls outside of these zones, and I don't really expect Verizon to install a new cell just to fix the dead zone I drive through every day that has a radius of about 20 yards from a particular intersection. Rather, I just make sure I'm not on the phone when I go through it.

Re:Really so common? (1)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617662)

I live in the UK, and internet outages have been a problem for m in the past few years. Sometimes it's the ISP playing silly-buggers and cancelling my service, sometimes it's "unexplainable". Some freeview cable TV channels can only be had in certain parts of the country, and the reception regularly dies, especially in bad weather. I put up with it because there isn't a better service to be had for a sensible amount of money. And, yes, emails do go adrift, though not often. In my case, my boyfriend wrote to me to ask whether we should keep seeing each other; I answered with a very emphatic "yes!" It never reached him; he's now my ex-. It bounced back to me a month later. Damn teh internets for ruining my love life!

Cost? (1, Flamebait)

koan (80826) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617274)

Cost shouldn't be an issue, look at what they charge us and cellular networks are cheaper to expand than hardwired cables thru the ground, I agree with "conditioned" most people don't know enough to know any better.

I will say we are headed for a world of hurt when all communications go via IP (phone/video/data) you want to talk about a "terrorist" wet dream that would be it.
the reliability of
The current network structure can't even come close to POT's (IMO).

Screw cost, they charged me 19$'s in 2001 now my bill is 49$'s for the *same exact service*....

Because we're cheap? (0)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617276)

I think the answer is, "Because we are cheap." It would cost twice as much to increase reliability from 99% to 99.999%. And most of us just don't need those extra 9's. That being said, there is a market for 99.999. Upper-middle class and higher would pay for it. Businesses would pay for it. It just isn't as big a market, from what I've observed.

Also, no competition in many areas. Cable TV was mentioned. Internet access. I don't know about other countries, but most places in the USA, you get what they give you, and if you want more, you can lay your own fiber.

There is no honesty in advertisement. Some places will advertise 99.9 or higher, but will not deliver. You could probably get your money back. But you would have to spend a couple of hours on the phone every month, just to demand your money back. Eventually, the service provider might drop you as a customer.

Re:Because we're cheap? (2, Insightful)

Titoxd (1116095) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617684)

That being said, there is a market for 99.999. Upper-middle class and higher would pay for it.
Um, no. The thing that got the upper class to where they got is either a) dumb luck or b) an ability to distinguish which costs are unnecessary and avoiding them. A savvy spender doesn't give a damn whether the cell will not get a signal for 50 minutes during the year, instead of five minutes, if the costs he will incur are double. A savvy spender determines what he needs and then finds the most cost-effective solution that will fit his needs.

Thank Ma Bell (1)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617278)

Even though Ma Bell was an evil monopoly, one thing the did set the standard for was uptime. The older generation never had a phone failure, that is why it's still expected of landlines at least.

It's the cost (2, Insightful)

hehman (448117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617284)

If offered cell plans that cost $50/month with rare outages or $150 a month with extremely rare outages, which would most people take?

99.999% (5 nines) of reliability is achievable, but it's very expensive and hard to do. Everything has to be redundant, with no single point of failure, everything has to support fail-over seamlessly, the software has to be tested with extreme rigor, and upgrade procedures need to function nearly instantly and support rollback without loss of service.

Wait a minute... (1)

Dash-o-Salt (724026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617288)

I was treating this article seriously until I came to point where it claimed that "We know that many of our emails never reach their destination." Huh? When was the last time you had an email that failed to deliver? I know it's possible, and I've seen it once in awhile, but it's so rare nobody complains about it.

I suppose it depends on where you live, but the outages I've seen in other basic services (cable tv/internet, cellphone) over the last year and a half have been virtually nonexistent.

I feel like this is another clueless journalist trying to yank people's chains. Maybe he's just living in an entirely different universe. Maybe he's personally had outages recently that have driven him to write this rant.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617520)

I was treating this article seriously until I came to point where it claimed that "We know that many of our emails never reach their destination." Huh? When was the last time you had an email that failed to deliver? I know it's possible, and I've seen it once in awhile, but it's so rare nobody complains about it.

I disagree. So many people/ISPs use excessively strong spam filters that your message will never arrive, and some don't generate proper bounce messages, so you never know it didn't arrive.

I call and get accounts credited regularly (1)

skavenger (1219006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617308)

I've never had a huge issue with cell phone or email downtime, but I regularly bitch at my ISP for extended outages and have always been credited the paltry sum of downtime that I paid for. This works out to a little more than a dollar for every 24 hours of service outage and is really nothing more than a symbolic slap in the face from me to them. As a student I generally have enough free time to notice/care when my internet service isn't working. Calling help desks and being told to restart my system over and over has made me bitter. If I started having problems with other services I pay for and continually got the same useless advice rather than an honest explanation of what's going on and had the time, I would probably try to get money back on them too. How would anyone go about demanding infrastructure upgrades to ensure 99.999% uptime? Entry costs for a new business are prohibitive and most communications companies have their users by the balls.

because 'misson critical' is a myth (5, Insightful)

spasm (79260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617312)

Because 90% of stuff labeled 'mission critical' actually isn't. Think about it - for most of us, being able to receive or send cellphone calls or emails at any time seems super important, but the number of hours in any given month where it really *was* super important (the grant application was due in two hours; your mother was sick; your partner was about to go into labor; whatever) is generally pretty low - our real tolerance for occasional downtime is therefore quite high.

nothing to do with regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617314)

But Larry Borsato asks why we as customers are willing to put up with anything less than 99.999% uptime? That's the gold standard, and one that we are used to thanks to regulated telephone service.

Landline telephone service is extremely reliable because the system was designed & engineered to be reliable by the fine engineers & scientists at American Telephone & Telegraph and Bell Labs, along with management that allowed them to put in the effort. Unfortunately, none of them work there anymore.

In fact, you could say that the market is willing to live with less reliability for cheaper cost - the immense popularity of voip service is testament to that.

Reliable || Affordable || Fast Release Times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617318)

Of Simple , Reliable , Affordable , Fast Release times. Quality, pick any two typically.

Software quality has also been falling lately. Too many run of the mill programmers out there.

High reliability systems are often coded by engineers, not run of the mill code-monkeys.

It takes more time, more money, but in the end, it's coded by someone who knows they can lose their licence to practice, and get held criminally/civilly responsible for any serious [not all] software defects.

What are we getting for 400.00 copies of windows? Some fancy screen savers/widgets, and some entry level helpdesk ex programmer to assist us in doing the reinstallation mantra?

Because it's not necessary? (3, Informative)

Srass (42349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617336)

Well, my guess would be that many (but not all) people understand that being able to call an ambulance because Aunt Betty has fainted is a necessity, but being able to chat with Aunt Betty for an hour from your car isn't. Missing a rerun of Laverne and Shirley isn't critical, and neither is having to wait to post those vacation pictures to Flickr. Your coworkers will, in all probability, somehow muddle through if you can't send them email from your blackberry.

The telephone as we know it was the first genuinely instantaneous, worldwide communications medium that anyone could use, it was seen as a necessary component for national security during the cold war, and was built out as such. We've had over a century to perfect it, and vast amounts of money were spent doing so. Despite its origins at DARPA, the Internet as we know it today, although more useful, is by and large less of a basic need, is far more complex, and large portions of it are still built on top of the telephone infrastructure, besides.

I can't help but think that most people understand this sort of thing, and understand that bringing such modern conveniences up to five nines of reliability is difficult and expensive, and people have evidently decided that a certain tradeoff to make such things affordable isn't out of line.

The shorter, more pessimistic version of this is probably, "It's cheaper to suck."

You don't have to take it anymore (4, Insightful)

BanjoBob (686644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617344)

When Comtrash Internet dropped my speed from 6 Mbps to 1 Mbps but kept the rate at 6 times DSL, I dropped Comtrash and went with the 1.5 Mbps DSL from my local telco. I got 50% more than Comtrash was delivering at 1/6th the cost. No problem.

When Microsoft decided that I didn't own the rights to my own media and stopped me from being able to copy my own DVDs, I decided to drop them for my media development system and I switched to Linux and Apple. Microsoft doesn't want my business so I went with the people who do. No problem.

When my Long Distance company decided to charge over $1.00 per minute for International calls, I switched to AT&T and their 17 cents a minute program. No problem.

When Frigidaire washers charged extra for the warm water cycle but only give you 5 seconds of hot water and thus, never any, it was no problem to return the unit and buy a different brand. Sure, the salesman wasn't happy but, that is now his problem and not mine. I bought a different brand that did give me what they advertised and promised. No problem.

The list is endless and across all businesses and domains.

The point being is that there are alternatives but, many (or most) people are either too lazy to do anything about it or, like this article, they are too apathetic to do anything about it.

The choice is up to the consumer and, if the consumer would take action, the industry would have to adapt because the market demands it. So far, the market is willing to accept this and thus, the industry sees no reason to change. The less the consumer will accept for their dollar the less they will receive. That, is the problem.

I'm still trying to figure out... (0)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617352) its legal for companies to sell blank DVDs that are utter trash. All except Taiyo Yuden, of course.

Somehow its computers' fault. The PC was the first product sold where "it works sometimes" was acceptable - and people have been trained now to accept "it works sometimes" from anything tech-related.

Re:I'm still trying to figure out... (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617674)

The PC was the first product sold where "it works sometimes" was acceptable

Cars started out like that (and some are still like that). Compare te reliabilty of today's cell phone with the bricks from 20 years ago. Much more reliable, at a much lower cost.

Even toilets don't have 5 9's reliability when there are small kids around who want to see their guinea pigs go for a swim ...

It's simple confusion (3, Funny)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617376)

Be careful to pick a provider that advertises "seven nines of reliability" instead of the more common "nine sevens of reliability".

O RLY? (4, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617414)

When it comes to mobile phone service, cable TV, Internet access, service interruptions are the norm -- and everyone seems willing to grin and bear it: 'We're so used cable and satellite television reception problems that we don't even notice them anymore.
And television is mission critical? Besides, I bet most people don't experience significant cable TV interruptions. Satellite depends on the strength of the signal. Tap into Arecibo and you'll likely get 100% reception.

We know that many of our emails never reach their destination.
[citation needed] I call bullshit on that one.

Mobile phone companies compare who has the fewest dropped calls (after decades of mobile phones, why do we even still have dropped calls?)
Because it's a benefit to have a phone that doesn't draw so much power that your brain heats up just from using the device. Also, dropping a call indicates that you're in an area where there's no cell towers or because you've hopped from one tower to the next and the next tower has its connections maxed out.

And the ubiquitous BlackBerry, which is a mission-critical device for millions, has experienced mass outages several times this month.
Blackberry is not a mission critical service. The people who use it as such are naive. If there truly is a market for five nines uptime for Blackberry, RIM would develop such a service and charge an order of magnitude more for it.

All of these services are unregulated, which means there are no demands on reliability, other than what the marketplace demands.' So here's the question for you: Why does the marketplace demand so little when it comes to these services?
Because ultimately it's really not a big deal. So your satellite TV goes down for a bit... get a life. You drop a cell phone call... redial. Your Blackberry isn't receiving emails... get a life.

Easy (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617420)

Because it is so hard to identify less than 99% uptime. If you cannot measure it, how can expect people to be able to consider it in their decision of what product to buy. That is why 'Consumer Reports' is considered such a good magazine, it measures all the attributes a consumer could not identify on their own.

limits of technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617422)

when there is a dirty great storm overhead and i lose my satellite TV i know
that theres a pretty good explanation of why, without a much much bigger
dish, this is the case. I switch the TV off and do something else instead.
When my mobile phone signal dies 3 times on the way home by train i know
that there are no decent mobile masts nearby. and personally i dont
want more mobile masts. some things in life need 99.999% uptime or better.
things that keep us alive. most of the technology we are surrounded by
is not essential. its techy gadgets etc. want a reliable phone? best
to use a hard-wired direct to the exchange PBX "old-fashioned" type...not
a DECT, not something that relies on power in the house. want decent
connectivity? use copper, not wireless. want more reliable TV? use cable
- as they DO have much much bigger dishes to receive with ;-)

care about this? not really. i live in the real world.

Regulation has different economics (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617426)

A regulated industry has to justify the prices it charges. Some of the justification revolves around maintenance and capital costs. In other words, the industry is rewarded for spending on infrastructure and upkeep. An unregulated industry has a different motivation. All it has to do is spend enough to keep the customers from defecting, if they can, en masse. In other words, they will provide the lowest quality service the customers will put up with. Any other course of action would be financial suicide.

In the telecom industry, the result of deregulation is customer annoyance. In the aviation industry, on the other hand, deregulation produces greater danger to the flying public. In fact, air travelers are indicating that they have had more than they can stomach. [] We are seeing a grass roots movement that is forcing legislatures to enact legislation. As it stands, an airline can confine passengers forever in a plane on the tarmac. Even the cops can't do that legally (ok but I realize that they do it anyway). They can also make a healthy profit selling your lost luggage for more than they paid you for losing it.

The crap we have to put up with from our airlines, telcos and ISPs will only stop when the customers rise up and force their congress critters to act. (This turned out to be a rant, didn't it?)

Why? Simple... (2, Insightful)

robizzle (975423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617446)

Engineering has always been about compromise. Any idiot can design a structure that is X feet tall but it would prove more useful it if wasn't a giant block of concrete -- if it had room for offices and the materials used to build it had minimal cost without sacrificing structural integrity.

The same applies to computer engineering. We would easily build a cell phone network that had so many redundancies that it would virtually never go down and would support for thousands of times the expected average load, but we would pay for it in terms of cost. Customers demand reliability. Customers demand affordable cost. What the customer is "willing to accept" is a balance between the two.

Because it's unreasonable (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617448)

I was in a hurricane during which I lost power for two weeks and phone (landline. My cell was fine the whole time, oddly enough) for three days. In order for either of those companies have five 9s of reliability, they'd have to have nearly 4,000 years or 800 years respectively of uninterrupted uptime. So it's already too late.

Further, I've had phone interruptions of up to a day on multiple occasions, I was not living in the boonies, either, but a mostly urban area with a population of about 500,000. So it's already too late. I would not say that "the telcos" are achieving anywhere near 5 9s of uptime in the consumer market.

Further, it's much more important how long an outage is than the cumulative average length of an outage. A web site for instance could easily sustain hundreds of 1s outages a day transparently. Most users of the famed blackberries probably wouldn't even notice blocks of 5 minutes at a time (assuming it queues messages when service is unavailable like a well designed mobile communications device would). Even 911 could probably handle outages of a minute or so as long as they were spaced several "average call lengths" apart.

So, yeah, 5 9s would be nice, but acceptable results can be had by investing in response time, and the important bit is the total cost to achieve your goals.

Gas Prices? (3, Interesting)

careysb (566113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617460)

I'm still waiting for people to scream about the rising gas prices and the record oil company profits. Seems like this would have a greater impact on the general populous than reliable cell phone service.

Nothing bad happens (1)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617498)

It's acceptable because, unless you have some kind of heroin-like addiction to YouTube, when your Internet connection goes down, nothing bad happens. Nobody dies. Nobody loses their job. Nobody loses money. You go outside for a bit and play with your dog.

Same for mobile phones, cable, and every other luxury communication service. If it goes down, it's no big deal. You go spend some quality time with people you love.

Packet/Circuit Switching Networks and Wireless Air (1)

chiasmus1 (654565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617500)

When the Internet, as it is today, was designed, the creators had the choice between packet switching and circuit switching.

Circuit switching is the way that the phone companies went. This is why you either get the call through or do not get the call through. With circuit switching you are guaranteed a certain amount of bandwidth. Because of this, your call will be there until the call is ended and the circuit is released, even if you do not use all of your guaranteed bandwidth. You could call someone and not talk for an hour and still have the bandwidth locked up. This seemed a little inefficient to the Internet designers.

Packet switching does not lock up the resources like circuit switching does. Instead, the packets are sent on a best effort type system. If lots of people are using the bandwidth, each person gets a little bit less. With hundreds of calls, a single new flow of traffic does not make much of a difference. Unfortunately, there are problems when too many flows try to use the available resources, which can result in lost packets or data. Packet switching does waste a lot less than circuit switching, but provides no guarantees.

To complicate things a bit more, mobile phones are unable to have a wire connecting them to the network. This means that multiple wireless devices use the same air space. If too many people are talking at the same time, this results in collisions in the air. Packets that would have only been lost due to congestions and other things like that now have to deal with actual physical transmission collisions. This makes things even more complex if you want a few extra 9's.

Wireless service providers have to balance over-provisioning the network with trying to use the resources they have already invested as efficiently as possible. It basically means that the more 9's you want, the more you have to over-provision the networks, the more money and resources that are actually wasted.

it is you (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617502)

If you are having frequent issues, such as dropped calls and undelivered emails, I have some bad news for you. People are hanging up on you, and people are telling you that your email never arrived. While there are dead zones where cellular telephones lose reception, if you experience dropped calls regardless of geographic area or provider, it's not your phone that is the problem. Your problem is the other party can terminate the call with a push of the button and tell you that they lost signal.

Emails almost always reach their destination too. Maybe you write like a spammer ? Maybe some people set up filters so that your email never reaches their eyes, for any number of reasons. Who knows, but a more reliable delivery system won't fix any of those problems, let alone those that just say they never got it because they just don't care.

Pay more for more. (1)

mikkelm (1000451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617504)

Because average consumers don't pay for more.

When you sign up with us, you can get a residential connection that will typically offer you 99.9% availability. If you want more, we can provide, but it'll cost you more. Why? Because we cannot afford to put a sufficiently large UPS in each of our locations when we serve on average around 50 residential customers per location. It's not economically viable with our residential pricing, and it never will be.

99.9% availability is something most would consider excellent on a symmetrical 25Mbps link for $50/month. If you expect five nines, I hope you're smarter than to go with residential products for your connectivity needs.

Must be using RFC1149 (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617528)

We know that many of our emails never reach their destination.

Seriously? I can't say I've ever experienced an email simply getting lodged in a tube and never reaching its destination.

Not including the usual "Why yes, professor, I emailed you that homework assignment last week. What do you mean you didn't get it?", of course.

Anyway, I've never really thought about it, but POTS does seem to be exceptionally reliable - I can't think of a single other utility/service that can match it. Power, water, cable, etc all go up and down more than the drawers of an indecisive prostitute. Hell, has anyone looked at the "uptime" of public transportation recently?

So, why do we "put up" with a few hours of downtime per year? Because we are not being ridiculous.

Five 9's is impossible! (1)

PackMan97 (244419) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617540)

Operators are expected to achieve "five nines" of reliability or "uptime" -- the service must be available 99.999% of the time -- and they must report any instances of downtime longer than 2 minutes. That's a miniscule five minutes of downtime in the 525,600 minutes in a year.
Let's see, in 1989 I survived Hurricane Hugo. We didn't have phone service for around one week. BellSouth just used up 2,000 years worth of downtime in one week. A few years ago got hit by an ice storm and lost phone service for over 36 hours. There goes over 400 years of downtime. While talking about 5 9's is very nice, when mother nature, an idiot with a backhoe or any number of other random occurrences can use up hundreds of years of downtime 5 9's will be impossible. Sure, you can talk about co-location, redundancy and plenty of other contingency plans but at the end of the day there has to be physical connections and those can and will be broken.

Re:Five 9's is impossible! (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617650)

You totally misunderstand the 5 9s concept.

It doesn't mean that each and every individual phone will be up 99.999 percent of the time, it means that the system as a whole will be up 99.999% of the time.

Its quite possible for an entire town to be down for an entire year and still meet this criteria.

Yet modern cell operators STILL can not come close.

He's not kidding (1)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617544)

I stumbled my way into getting on Sprint's global cellular outage/resolution mailing list.

It's staggering. Especially when you pull out all the little issues and just focus on total service outages for entire markets. I couldn't believe how much they're down in certain markets. Always seems fine to me, but then again, I'm not on the phone "Five-Nines" of the time.

I think that has a lot to do with it, if you're looking for hosting for some site, 5-nines is really necessary, or close to, with kick-em-in-the-teeth if they don't deliver SLA's, since that site needs to be up all the time and can be hit by anyone, anytime. My cellphone? Not so much. It needs to work when I need it to work, and if there's a 3 minute outage sometime during my day, I probably won't ever notice it.

Perspective (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617556)

99.9% uptime is 364+ days a year. When services like Comcast and Blackberry go down for 3-4 days every year, they have rightfully generated the level of news that is given to them. This costs businesses Millions and drops their annual performance to the 99% range. *THIS* is the range that consumers should be up in arms about. 99.9% is actually pretty good for anything that IS NOT A RISK TO HUMAN LIFE.

Now, if the performance dropped to 90%, the services would be down 3-4 days every MONTH and customers would get pissed off enough to laugh entire companies out of existence. Imagine if Windows Update occurred during the second Tuesday of every month and knocked out your company network until the following Monday? Linux would be adopted pretty damned quickly...

Re:Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617610)

You mean it doesn't?? Why then do I have to reboot / rebuild every damn thing every time I get new windows updates?

Most Vedors don't even support 99.999 (1)

rwwyatt (963545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617558)

Without loads of fine print written into the contract. I have worked with HP over the years and 99.999 was only supported for Machines in a ServiceGuard Configuration, and you still had to take 1/2 of the machine down for regular patch intervals. My favorite was the soft failure of a CPU up to 2001, it still caused an HPMC although they sold managers on the fact that the CPU would just be soft removed.

Because we are not addicts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22617560)

The reason why we *LIKE* less that 99.999% uptime is that we pay a lot less for it than we would if the telcos really did build networks that could provide that level of service. And we like to save money.

But fundamentally, there is another reason, and that is that we are not addicted to connectivity. We have other things to do with our time and we can live with interruptions from time to time. The fact is that such interruptions are usually so short that when we check back with the net after and hour or two of doing something else, everything is back to normal. And occasionally, when an outage is longer, it is fixed the next day unless it is a major earthshaking event like the Asian tsunami a couple of years ago or the Northeast blackout.

In any case, most of the telcos that claim 99.999% uptime don't really achieve this goal. They adjust the figures so that they only measure the best bits of their network and they don't count things like "planned outages". I've worked for telcos for about 10 years so I have seen some of this from the inside.

There is a growing body of evidence that the best way to provide very high levels of uptime, even 99.9999% or better, is to have great diversity and redundancy which most people can achieve by using several different ISPs and types of service. T3 at the office, DSL at home, wifi on the laptop. This doesn't help Crackberry addicts who are hopelessly addicted to the in thing, or iPhone users, but it does help most of us.

Simple Reasons (1)

bratwiz (635601) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617570)

1) It requires getting up off your ass and at least writing a letter

2) It requires being able to contact other people to get the word out, meet other like-minded folks, and to organize a group of people to follow some particular action (good luck). This generally means you have to post/appear somewhere that matters-- for example, Slashdot is a bad example, their editors are arbitrary and capricious assholes, it is rare that anyone actually is able to submit anything to Slashdot and get it posted. Newspapers, Magazines, TV, etc are even harder, though you can probably get the occasional letter-to-the-editor published in your hometown newspaper.

3) In order to back up your words (assuming you got past items #1 & #2) you have to figure out what other providers there are that are better (good luck there too) and get your group to agree to transfer services there (or at least threaten to) as a block. Individual people aren't likely to have much luck here-- the telcos today have so many subscribers they don't really give a rat's ass about any few of them.

4) It helps if you can whip up some media attention (as in step #2) but good luck there too since most of the reporter types I've met are generally jaded assholes too (but there are exceptions now and again). It helps a lot if you can points to gallons of blood gushing from a router or something like that. Reporters like blood (unless its their own), it sells papers. You can also use a cute animal like a puppy or a kitten. Reporters are suckers for puppies and kittens. And just think of the publicity you could drum up with a BLOODY puppy or kitten! And for extra credit its good to get a celebrity figure like maybe Charleton Heston or Ted Nugent-- they could probably help you with the bloody puppies and kittens too.

5) Then you need to figure out some way to get your ISP to care-- like taking your reporter to the back of their building to show them the pipe spewing bloody puppies and kittens might be a good way to start-- companies don't like that sort of negative publicity-- but they'll deny it was them in any case and hire lawyers and PR people to smile and deny it on camera and sue anybody who doesn't believe them.

There those who supply 99.999% (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617594)

but it costs an arm and a leg, consumers want cheap, they get what they pay for.

Well, how much is 0.00001% going to hurt? (1)

ricebowl (999467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617640)

Since, unless my maths is hideously wrong, 0.00001% of a year (to use an arbitrary time period) is, in seconds, 60 (seconds) * 60 (minutes) * 24 (hours) * 365 (days) = 31536000seconds; 0.00001% of a year is: 315.36seconds or 5.256minutes.

Five and a quarter minutes loss of one's mobile phone or internet, per year, isn't going to hurt that much. Even for the Slashdot F5-monkeys (of which group I'm proud to be a member!). For a pacemaker or life-support machine it's not good enough, I agree; but for a utility communication?

Difference between prevention and recovery (1)

Bookwyrm (3535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617648)

Because there is a difference between spending the time and effort to build a computer that never crashes verses the time/effort to just reboot one.

When you get into the 99.999% or more range, you're basically doing everything you can to keep faults from happening in the first place -- and this is almost exactly the opposite of the Internet design philosophy, which assumes lost packets will be retransmitted, censorship/damage will be routed around, etc. It's a consumer technology -- cheap, low-cost, disposable (i.e. retransmit lost data, retry, reboot, etc.) -- which is why it has been successful in the consumer market. It is a "if something goes wrong, we'll kick it and try again" approach.

The alternative, making sure nothing goes wrong in the first place, starts getting into things like resource reservation. ("Hey, before I send this data over there, let's make sure there's room first, and reserve it, so I know my data will not get blocked/lost." vs. "I'll just send my data packets -- if I don't get a response, I'll just keep retransmitting until I do.")

People like the consumer approach because it lets them be lazy as well as cheap. The other approach scares people off because it starts sounding like a closed network/system, not to mention it puts responsibility on the users, which also scares them off.

(Hey, you want 99.999% uptime? Stop supporting a flat-rate bandwidth model, and start paying by data throughput. The old telecom industry *had* to keep the network up, because they were paid by the minute only while the calls could get through. Right now, if you pay an ISP $30 a month flat rate, it doesn't matter if the network is down for a day, the ISP still gets it's $1/day. Oh, you might get your $1 back if you get down and fight for a refund, but... If you paid per amount of data that got exchanged, and the ISP goes down for a day, it's lost a day of revenue the ISP never gets. Look at the market incentives the current pricing models put on the network providers and how it drives their focus. If you want cheap, flat-rate access, don't be surprised that you get cheap service, flat-rate customer service (i.e. business hours only, not on-call, on-demand, etc.).)

Because the markets a friggin democracy! (1)

Babu 'God' Hoover (1213422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617676)

Sure, everyone thinks they have a choice but the game is rigged.
Some, know it's rigged and scream for 'transpancy'. Idiots!
Be it poker, business, or foreign policy, the transparent hand is the losing hand.
The majority walks around in a daze.
The rest, knowing it's a rigged game, either strive become a benefiting player or drop out, grow a little pakalolo, and go surf.

A related problem (1)

ximenes (10) | more than 6 years ago | (#22617682)

Lets say that you are a discerning customer who is willing to pay more for better service (or better equipment, or whatever). It's not even possible!

Sure there are absurdly expensive cell phone plans (and phones) targeted to the wealthy, but they don't offer any improved performance or reliability on a technical level. There are fancier and more expensive computers, but fundamentally you're still at the mercy of the quality control of a given Chinese manufacturer who churns out the competing brand the next assembly line over.

There seem to be a lot of areas, especially as relates to technology or mechanical products, where there just simply is no way to get a better, more reliable product regardless of the money you spend. And what is the consumer supposed to do about that?

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