Unplanned 3 Hour Global Mainframe Outage Scheduled

IBM is notifying all its mainframe customers that due to a once-in-a-lifetime "rear endian horological issue" of critical importance, all mainframes, worldwide, must be completely shut down and powered off for 3 hours on April 1, 2013. Any 3 hours will do, according to IBM's press release, but the downtime must occur on April 1, 2013, based on Mainframe Standard Time (MST). Moreover, the outage must be Sysplex-wide in order to correct the horological issue properly. All forms of GDPS, SRDF, and other cross-site recovery procedures must not be initiated. Failure to shut down on April 1 will result in random transposition of date fields so that, for example, April 2, 2013, which might be represented as 02/05/2013, could instead be rendered as 3102/50/20. Such improper date rendering could result in catastrophic business losses, such as bank account holders getting paid 0.1% in annual interest on their accounts.

There are only two exceptions listed in IBM's urgent "red alert." The first exception applies to customers that do not use the so-called "Western calendar" and which only process dates using other calendar systems such as the Maya calendar. They can postpone powering off their mainframes until 5 minutes before their IBM hardware service agreement expires. The other exception is Cyprus's Laiki Bank which the red alert describes as a "Permanent Mercy Outage (PMO)."

This worldwide mainframe outage is unprecedented, and it goes without saying it will significantly disrupt global society and our everyday lives. The world's financial systems, public safety including national security, Taco Bell's new SuperMax Burrito, and many other facets of our everyday lives depend on IBM's ordinarily incredibly reliable workhorses. That said, we humans always try to look on the bright side. The BBC interviewed Abigail Smythe, a customer of a large U.K. bank, who says she is looking forward to 21 hours of continuous service. Meanwhile, South Korean broadcaster KBS, which was on the air for 10 minutes today until anonymous hackers compromised their servers again to transmit footage of Kim Jong Un eating sushi and playing with an iMac, mentioned that IBM's red alert will not affect their operations. Visa and MasterCard announced that they've programmed all retail terminals to approve all charges during their 3 hour outages. Credit card industry spokesperson Stuart Umpton notes that "We don't want to do anything that will interrupt our cardholders' spending beyond their means, so we'll just approve everything and clean up any messes starting on April 2."


Mainframe users in Venice, California, express horror over the forced worldwide outage, warning the public using this helpful sign. Photo taken by Anthony Citrano (Creative Commons License).

by Timothy Sipples April 1, 2013 in Business Continuity, Events


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