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The Apps Status Dashboard, which provides information about the status of Google Apps, isn't so old that it cries out for a fresh coat of paint. It was launched in February 2009, following a Gmail outage, as a way to communicate more effectively with Google Apps users.
Nonetheless, Google engineering manager Sumeet Pannu said in a blog post that the new design will provide important information faster.
"The former day-by-day design will be replaced by the new dashboard which gives a more clutter-free status with a single, continuous timeline," Pannu wrote.
The new design makes it easier to follow incidents as they unfold by providing a single transcript and single URL for an entire disruption or outage, even if it spans multiple days.
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Google was not the first vendor to implement a way to monitor the status of cloud services. Amazon Web Services already had its own Service Health Dashboard in 2009. Microsoft's BPOS service, now part of its Office 365 offering, launched in April 2009 and received a Service Health Dashboard in September 2010. Microsoft's dashboard, unlike Amazon's and Google's, is protected from public view behind a Microsoft Online Services login page.
In his blog post, Pannu notes that Google's dashboard "is visible to everyone on the Web--there’s no username or password required."
While the motivation for Microsoft's decision to limit access to its dashboard remains unclear, its online services have had more than their share of troubles lately. The company experienced problems in May, June, July, August, and September. The downtime has been enough to prompt the U.K.'s Advertising Standards agency to look into whether Microsoft's cloud is really available 99.9% of the time, as claimed.
Google meanwhile notes that Gmail was available 99.984% of the time last year and that the company delivered 99.99% availability in the first half of 2011. However, no cloud provider has proven to be unbreakable. Gmail in fact was down for about 20 minutes just last week.
Cloud service problems prompt a common response, regardless of the vendor involved: A desire for concise, timely information about what happened and about how and when the problem will be resolved. Toward that end, Google's improved App Status Dashboard is likely to be appreciated, even if customers would probably prefer that such tools were unnecessary to begin with.