Google Docs was offline for over an hour on Wednesday afternoon, leading many users to express their frustration with Google’s cloud office suite. Google has now offered an explanation of the issue that led to the outage, and it can all be traced back to a memory bug on the server side. A change in the collaboration feature led to higher than expected resource usage and uncovered the bug, which had been lurking in the back end for some time.
The bug that caused this lengthy outage would not have been problematic were it not for the recent changes. Whenever a user changes a document, a server has to be updated. The bug prevented memory from being recycled when this operation was complete. The result was servers that were unable to process new requests.
By rolling back the feature change, Google engineers were able to correct the issue. Google is currently looking for similar memory leaks in other products, but Docs should be safe for the time being. It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s cloud services also went down this week for a few hours. A cautionary tale?