Database Corruption Blamed For Netflix Snafu

The IT chief at Netflix has pointed the finger of blame for its site problems last month at "a database corruption event in our shipping system." The problem prevented customers from receiving their DVDs for about three days.

Mike Osier, head of IT Operations at Netflix, wrote in a blog posting on Aug. 22 that it was "a key faulty hardware component" that caused the hiccup. "On Monday, 8/11, our monitors flagged a database corruption event in our shipping system," Osier said. "Over the course of the day, we began experiencing similar problems in peripheral databases until our shipping system went down. It was going to be a long night."

It wasn't business as usual for the company until the end of that week, when on Aug. 15 Netflix began shipping from all of 55 distribution centers again and three million DVDs were mailed out.

"We suspected hardware and moved the shipping system to an isolated environment, gradually getting DVD shipments moving again. Eventually the system was repaired and shipping returned to normal conditions," Osier said. "With some great forensic help from our vendors, root cause was identified as a key faulty hardware component. It definitively caused the problem yet reported no detectable errors. We've taken steps to fortify our shipping system with the acquisition of additional equipment and worked with our vendors to verify we're in good shape elsewhere."

One sidenote: Netflix gets a healthy kudos for having come clean—theoretically—with what was behind the glitch, a move that is quite rare today with retail problems. The comments were posted on Netflix's blog: http://blog.netflix.com. The problem? Go to www.netflix.com and try and find a link—any link—to the blog. Not on the homepage, not in the About Us section, not in the Contact Us section.

If an E-Commerce site goes to all of the trouble of creating a blog and filling it with seemingly good content, why not link to it—and link to it prominently—from the site?

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