RIM Forms Internal "SWAT" Team to Investigate Outage Causes

Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) , stung by a three-day global BlackBerry service outage last month, said it formed a "SWAT team" inside the company to look into the cause of the outage, which dinged the company's reputation for reliability.

According to a Bloomberg report, the group is being led by CTO David Yach, and will even explore whether the company's vaunted server network, which securely routes data to BlackBerry devices, should be redesigned.

"Do we need to make any changes to either distribute traffic differently or look at how we do this completely differently?" Patrick Spence, RIM's head of regional sales and marketing, told Bloomberg. "This will certainly give us pause to figure if there's something else we need to be doing and so we are looking at what is the longer-term impact. There's nothing that's not on the table." Spence said the company will also consider whether to send more traffic through carriers.

A group of consumers upset over the outage filed a class-action lawsuit against RIM last week. The suit, which was filed in Quebec Superior Court by Consumer Law Group, asks RIM to compensate BlackBerry users directly or indirectly by arranging for wireless service providers to refund their customers for the loss of service.

The outage, which was the largest in RIM's history, lasted around three days earlier this month in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa; one and a half days in Latin America and Canada; and one day in the United States. RIM has said the outages were the result of a core switch failure in RIM's network infrastructure, which encrypts and routes email messages and other data, making it more secure. Although RIM's system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, it did not work as previously tested, creating a backlog of data. This caused RIM to "throttle" service in the affected regions, which then created more disruptions in regions not previously affected, including North America.

The outage -- and the response to it -- comes at a precarious time for RIM. The company continues to struggle in the U.S. market, according to a fresh report from research firm Canalys. RIM's shipment volumes declined 58 percent from the year-ago period and its U.S. market share slipped from 24 percent in the third quarter of 2010 to just 9 percent in the third quarter this year, according to Canalys. However, Canalys reported that RIM grew 59 percent in EMEA and 56 percent in the Asia-Pacific region over a year ago, largely driven by the continued popularity of BBM, its BlackBerry Messenger service. RIM has been counting on its refreshed BlackBerry 7 line to carry it through until it releases new smartphones running QNX software early next year.

Still, the company is under pressure to deliver stronger performance. "RIMM is behind the competition in every segment," Veritas Investment Research analyst Neeraj Monga wrote in a recent research note "It has an outdated platform, is unable to launch winning devices, is bleeding management talent, is unable to attract the best to work for it, is in a slash and burn mode, and all the R&D efforts and spending don't seem to be producing either winning [smartphones] or a decent tablet computing device."

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