Why Subsea Cables Breakage Brought Down Microsoft Services in South Africa

The recent subsea cable breaks between South Africa and Europe had a significant impact on Microsoft cloud services in South Africa, leading to disruptions in access to Office 365 and other platforms.

Why Subsea Cables Outage Brought Down Microsoft Services in South Africa
Why Subsea Cables Outage Brought Down Microsoft Services in South Africa

However, the situation was more complex than initially assumed, with multiple factors contributing to the service interruptions.

Why Subsea Cables Breakage Brought Down Microsoft Services in South Africa

On March 14th, four submarine cables – Wacs, Ace, Sat-3, and MainOne – experienced breaks off the coast of Ivory Coast, causing widespread internet service disruptions across the region.

While Microsoft struggled to maintain its platforms’ availability in South Africa, including Office 365 and Teams, many users believed these issues were directly linked to the cable breaks.

Office workers and businesses across South Africa faced difficulties accessing email, video conferencing via Teams, and other Microsoft services during the outage. However, services were fully restored by the weekend following the incident.

Microsoft attributed the service disruptions to the reduced total capacity supporting its Azure data center regions in South Africa, known as South Africa North and South Africa West.

Internet Outages’ Impact on Offshore Cloud Services

Despite having data centers located within the country, the undersea cable outages impacted access to offshore cloud services.

Jon Tullett, IT services research manager for IDC sub-Saharan Africa, highlighted two interconnected issues that contributed to the access problems. Firstly, the cable outages affected African internet connectivity, including access to offshore cloud services.

Additionally, Microsoft experienced an Office 365 outage affecting customers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

While AWS and other cloud providers were less affected, many users in Africa experienced difficulties accessing cloud services, regardless of the service provider.

Tullett explained that Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) may have been particularly impacted due to its extensive and complex global infrastructure spread, making it susceptible to disruptions.

Leading to Cascading Failures of On-premise Components

Furthermore, Tullett emphasized the importance of resilience and continuity testing for cloud services, especially in complex hybrid cloud environments.

He highlighted a case where a financial services provider experienced a critical software stack failure due to a single component dependency located in an offshore cloud, leading to cascading failures of on-premise components.

Overall, the incident underscores the challenges of maintaining uninterrupted cloud services in the face of unforeseen events and highlights the need for robust resilience measures and constant testing in complex cloud environments.



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