Microspeak: The planned unplanned outage, and other operations jargon

The Operations group at Microsoft manage the servers which keep the company running. And they have their own jargon which is puzzling to those of us who don't spend all our days in a noisy server room.

  • Unplanned Unplanned Outage
  • Planned Unplanned Outage
  • Immediate Deployment Timeframe. This one even has its own TLA: IDT.

From what I can gather, an Unplanned Outage would be better termed an Unscheduled Outage: We did not have it marked off on our calendar that the server would be unavailable at this time, but it ended up that way. These unscheduled outages fall into two categories: An Unplanned Unplanned Outage is an unscheduled outage that took place of its own volition. In other words, the server crashed or somebody accidentally kicked the power cable. On the other hand, the paradoxically-named Planned Unplanned Outage is an unscheduled outage that took place because the operations team took the server down out of schedule. For example, the server may have started thrashing, and they think rebooting it will help.

But the one that sounds really Microspeaky is Immediate Deployment Timeframe. Here's a citation:

Date: June 7, 2011 4:52 PM

Due to the critical nature of this issue, the hotfix will be deployed in an Immediate Deployment Timeframe. All affected servers will be remediated on June 8.

Start: June 7, 2011 11:00PM
End: June 8, 2011 12:00AM

In other word, Immediate Deployment Timeframe means as soon as possible. Note, however that it doesn't mean now, which is what I originally thought immediate meant until I looked at the start/end times and compared them to the message time. There must be some other TLA that means now, but what is faster than immediate?

Bonus Microspeak: remediate.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (22)
  1. Random832 says:

    "what is faster than immediate?" An unplanned unplanned outage.

  2. Robin Williams says:

    Did Donald Rumsfeld come up with this terminology?

  3. Richard says:

    "Unplanned Unplanned Outage" – I did nothing, it just crashed.

    "Planned Unplanned Outage" – I crashed it.

    "Immediate Deployment Timeframe" – When I can get round to it.

  4. kog999 says:

    •Unplanned Unplanned Outage – something unexpected happended and the server went down

    •Planned Unplanned Outage – management said we need to give a months notice for a planned outage but we dont want to wait that long so we will give a weeks notice and call it unplanned, but it really is planned so well call it planned unplanned.

    •Immediate Deployment Timeframe. This one even has its own TLA: IDT – Management said we can only deploy at certain times but for whatever reason we need to deploy sooner then that, but it doesn't have to be right this second.

  5. Aloha says:

    As someone who works in a noisy server room, this makes no sense whatsoever :-P

    I sill say, some of my favorite posts of yours are about Microspeak.

  6. Mike Dunn says:

    "ASAP" was too long of an acronym I guess.

  7. Timothy Byrd says:

    "what is faster than immediate?"

    That would have to be the "Immediate Deployment 1/0 Timeframe".  And it's corresponding FLA.

  8. Someone You Know says:

    "There must be some other TLA that means now, but what is faster than immediate?"

    I would not put it past Microsoft (or any other large, complex corporate entity) to have a four- or five-letter acronym that means "now".

  9. pm100 says:

    the airline code for 'now'  is 'at this time' ("at this time please turn off all electronics") so the TLA for it should be ATT

    The problem is that the airline code for 'then' is 'at that time' ("at that time use of electronic equipment will be permitted"). The TLA for that is also ATT

    maybe ATI and ATA as in At ThIs time and At ThAt time

  10. Edward says:

    Bonus Microspeak: remediate.

    Does it mean something other than to make things right?

  11. Ben says:

    No, that's exactly what it means (consistent with the definition in OED from 1837). I'm guessing Raymond's wish is that the "perfectly good word" "remedy" be used instead.

  12. Ens says:

    Well, according to the rules of Magic the Gathering that were current when I was in grade 4, "interrupt" is faster than "instant", and "instant" seems to match "immediate".  Therefore, Interrupt Deployment Timeframe.  As a bonus, it keeps the same TLA, so nobody has to be bothered with the difference between now and almost now.

  13. ErikF says:

    "Faster than immediate" deployments IME usually are a cause of many unplanned unplanned outages, sadly enough….  As well, I usually am thinking of garbage dumps as the target of a remediation.  It's an odd mental picture when servers are put in that frame.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I suppose I'll be the one to ask the obvious: Why isn't it just "planned/unplanned outage". The extra "unplanned" seems unnecessary, because it can be removed and still be logically consistent. (There are no, say, planned planned outages, or unplanned planned outages).

  15. Anonymous says:

    How about "No Observable Wait-time"? When I say now, I mean NOW.

  16. Why isn't it just "planned/unplanned outage"

    That allows only two possibilities; there are three.

    There are planned outages – for example, to install security updates on the servers.

    Then there are the two kinds of unplanned outages that Raymond outlines.

    Users don't care whether an unplanned outage is planned unplanned, or unplanned unplanned.  In fact, they usually don't even care whether an outage is planned or unplanned!  Users just don't want outages to happen at all; and when they do happen, users want them over as soon as possible.

  17. 640k says:

    Unplanned outage counts against SLA -> money back.

    Planned outage doesn't count against SLA -> user pay.

  18. JM says:

    "Intentional unplanned outage" would have been clearer. You can even confuse it with "intentionally unplanned outage", but that's OK because it's practically the same thing — it's an outage you could have planned, but chose not to. An "unintentional unplanned outage" is a crash, and an "unintentionally unplanned outage" is when the outage was planned, really, but you forgot to update the calendar. Finally, an "unintentionally planned outage" is when you tried to just hit the power switch, but someone intercepted you and insisted you plan for it.

    Of course, it's trivial to convert intentional unplanned outages to planned ones — just schedule them 20 seconds ahead of right now. Not my fault your RSS feed is slow today. If people are already used to IDT, you can call this "micro-IDT". Sapir and Whorf were really on to something with this "language shapes thought" thing — by synergistically leveraging idioms, we can enhance the richness of our user's experiences. I got a lot of learns out of this day.

  19. Alan Braggins says:

    If "immediate" means "as soon as possible", then faster than that might be "premature". But as far as I know nobody ever makes an announcement that something will be done too early, it's only applicable to later analysis of what went wrong.

  20. 640k says:

    Many changes are done premature in ignorance.

  21. Foolio says:

    I said I would do it later. It's barely now. I'm early.

  22. Mark (The Other Mark) says:

    I can see the difference, but the phrasing is confusing.

    If I was patching the SQL Server Cluster, and I took each server down in rotation and brought it back up, I could patch those servers with no downtime.

    If, while doing so, I made a mistake or ran into a problem that resulted in downtime- I planned the change, but did not plan the downtime. Planned Unplanned Outage.

    It might be useful as a method of tracking the causes of outages, I guess. We categorized those as "Induced", and the remediation was generally Training or Process Improvement.

    This segues into Remediation. Used to mean "Correcting an existing problem", that's fine. Our company tends to use it for any change. Requirements change on the project, how do you remediate your deliverable to comply with the new requirements. Or am I too caught up in the jargon that I'm missing the point?

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