Back on Thursday, August 14, Visual Studio Online customers experienced a major outage lasting a little over 5 hours. Then, this past Friday, Brian Harry took to his Microsoft blog to explain the problems and detail next steps. And, while he talked about the cause behind the Visual Studio Online, he may have unwittingly exposed and explained the bigger problem that seems to be affecting all the Microsoft products.
In the blog post, Brian humbly admits that Microsoft has "gotten sloppy" and goes on to say, "In the drive toward rapid cadence, value every sprint, etc., we’ve allowed some of the engineering rigor that we had put in place back then to atrophy – or more precisely, not carried it forward to new code that we’ve been writing."
Does this sound familiar? Even for those who are not Visual Studio customers this helps explain the woes experienced over the course of the past couple years as Microsoft has sought to accelerate product release cycles to provide new features while attempting to fix broken ones at the same time. This has caused a lot of customer angst, and is steadily chipping away at any trust customers might have had in Microsoft releases. Whether it's full-blown software or just patches, customers are becoming increasingly leery each month. Some patch teams are now changing update policies company-wide. They are delaying delivery of even security patches by at least a month (used to be a couple weeks), causing critical security concerns to go unpatched and potentially leaving systems bare and hackable. This is not good. Not good at all.
Interestingly enough, Brian's statements closely mirror customer overall perception. We've been hosting a survey on what customers believe Microsoft's problems with Patch Tuesday are, and the number one belief (so far) is that the accelerated product cycle is the root of the problems.
For Visual Studio Online, at least, the team has developed a 5-point plan on next steps for mitigating future problems. We've yet to hear from the other areas in Microsoft as to admitting a problem does exist and providing similar plans.
The only hint of truth we've seen is in a thread on the Microsoft forums that was subsequently deleted. Myce.com captured the thread in a screenshot just prior to removal. In the thread, Kurt Phillips of Microsoft said the team was working hard to fix the problems with August's Updates and then promised a re-release soon. But, he then went on to praise a 99.99% success rate for August's problematic patches, despite it becoming a major news story, suggesting that maybe the story was a bit overblown. Kurt identified himself as an engineer on the graphics team at Microsoft, and not an official spokesperson, which is probably why the thread was deleted.