EBay goes down for 11 hours

Online auctioneer EBay Inc. gambled and lost on a data-backup system that failed Wednesday, leaving potential users in the dark for almost 11 hours.

In a notice to its users, EBay said they had known for “awhile that a potential [hardware] problem existed” but decided to delay replacing it until after the busy holiday season.

The outage began at about 11:34 a.m. PST with a hardware failure in its shared-disk backup system. When technicians attempted to restart the system, “another problem” surfaced in the storage system shared by the primary and backup systems. A third backup system brought online at 2:45 p.m. PST worked for about 40 minutes before failing, leaving users in the dark until 9:56 p.m., when the site was finally restored, EBay said on its announcements board.

Although EBay said its site has been up 99 per cent of the time over the past four quarters, the San Jose-based company had been plagued with a number of outages related to heavy traffic on its Web site. Those shutdowns were remedied with a backup system.

With regard to yesterday’s outage, EBay said all auctions scheduled during down times had been extended by 24 hours. It also said it would provide refunds on any items affected by the shutdown.

The company said it will again have to shut down its site in the next few weeks during slow periods for about six hours while completing hardware upgrades recommended by its vendor, Sun Microsystems Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.

“Second, we have already embarked on a longer-term program to distribute the database to many separate servers that will isolate any failure to a limited part of the site,” EBay said in an online announcement. “We expect this to be complete within four weeks.”