Monday, November 1, 2010

Poorly Executed Code Push

So, today, Microsoft released the new XBox update. Unlike prior updates, they provided no update grace period. If you didn't install the update, you couldn't use any of your Live services.

Now, back when Live was pretty much exclusively about playing multiplayer games online, this kind of thing would be merely annoying, but otherwise not too much of a problem. Nowadays, where services like Zune music and video, Last.FM, NetFlix Streaming, Twitter, FaceBook, etc. all rely on being able to log into XBox live, you're kinda SOL if the service is unavailable to you.

There's also a LOT more people using the services in late 2010 than there were several years ago. So, if you're going to demand people upgrade, you need to ensure that they can upgrade in an easy, timely manner.

Microsoft utterly failed to do this. From the time I got home from work until I was able to get a successful download, it took me over 90 minutes. Now, this was 90 minutes of attempting to connect and download. Unfortunately, the XBox update method doesn't allow you to simply queue-up an update request, walk away, and let things happen unattended. No. You have to make the request, wait for the request to succeed or fail, then acknowledge the next action.

Because of the way they pushed the code, they had MILLIONS of people all trying to upgrade at once. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't use anything like BitTorrent to distribute updates, nor do they seem to use their "cloud" services to spin-up additional update servers to meet the sudden demand-spike (or, if they do, their "cloud" services are utterly sucktackular - even if they don't, you assume that they do, and it makes their "cloud" services offering look horrible, one way or the other). That means that, each time you request the update, it's a crapshoot on whether it will succeed. So, if you lose that crap-shoot, you can either immediately try again or come back sometime later and make another attempt.

Back when XBox live was just a gaming service, coming back later was the normal choice. Now that it's a control-center type of service, coming back later means that a lot of things you might want to use are not available. So, you have to try again ...and again, and again and again... All because their update utility wasn't designed with queuing features.

Seriously, Microsoft, this whole thing was a debacle. It makes you look like amateurs - both in your gaming service and in other things you do. You might want to rethink how you do future code-rolls.

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