BlackBerry outage blamed on software upgrade

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Research in Motion, the Canadian manufacturer of the BlackBerry family of wireless e-mail devices, on Friday blamed a minor software upgrade for a systems outage that disrupted e-mail service to millions of BlackBerry owners in north America earlier this week.

RIM said the outage from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning was triggered by “the introduction of a new, non-critical system routine” designed to optimise the cache, or temporary memory, on the computer systems that run the BlackBerry e-mail network.

Although RIM, which has 8m subscribers – the bulk of them in the US - managed to restore the service to most users by mid-morning on Wednesday, the outage prompted a wave of speculation about the causes including suggestions that RIM had been unable to cope with the recent rapid growth of its subscriber base.

On Friday, however, RIM said ”the pre-testing of the system routine proved to be insufficient” and said the failed upgrade apparently set off a domino effect of glitches, which the company referred to as ”a compounding series of interaction errors between the system’s operational database and cache.”

The Canadian company added that a ”failover process” to switch to a backup system ”did not fully perform to RIM’s expectations.” That led to a delay in restoring service and ”processing the resulting message queue,” a reference to the backlog of undelivered e-mail that accumulated up during the outage.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company, which had stayed silent on the causes of the outage until Friday, had also been widely criticised for not being more forthcoming – criticism that Jim Balsillie, RIM’s co-chief executive, brushed aside on Friday.

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