Why Blackberry's Secretive Network is To Blame

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The recent massive Blackberry outage continues to spread around the globe, today hitting Canada.  Research in Motion (RIM) has acknowledged that failure of a core switch at a data center in Europe caused a massive backlog of undelivered Blackberry email traffic in Europe, which snowballed to hit the Middle East, Africa, South America, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and India this week. UAE telecom company Du estimated that as many as 50 percent of BlackBerry customers in MENA could have been affected.

Unlike the software bug that caused reduced reception in Apple iPhones in the U.S. last summer, the Blackberry outage points to deeper problems within the RIM network. RIM’s secretive infrastructure, which facilities levels of encryption high enough to rankle the governments of India and the UAE, may be one of its biggest flaws.

The reason that a single switch has such power, Reuters reports, is because RIM funnels its traffic through centralized servers, in at least six data centers around the world, which monitor traffic security. While RIM has said that there is no evidence of hacking or a system breach in this case, its centralized structure likely makes it vulnerable to outages, such as those seen in 2008 and 2009.

RIM has been scrambling to reassure customers, promising in a conference call on Wednesday that all emails and instant messages will be eventually delivered, although perhaps not until today. Co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are coming under fire for the incident, as shareholder Jaguar Financial Group is now openly calling upon RIM to sell itself or sell its patent portfolio.

According to ComScore, Blackberry is still the dominant smartphone operating system worldwide, but has sunk to #3 in the U.S., behind Google and Apple. On the heels of the iPhone 4S announcement, Apple stock continues to climb, almost reaching its September peak, which marks its overall peak value. Blackberry stock, on the other hand, while it has not sunk further since Monday, remains at lows not seen since 2006, after crashing on September 15th when RIM announced disappointing second-quarter earnings.

Whether or not RIM will compensate users for delayed communications, as the government of Colombia requested, or answer to Jaguar Financial Group remains to be seen. For now, users are simply waiting, and acknowledging the outage’s interesting timing.

As Kuwaiti student @DanaAl_h tweeted: “BB, I think it's nice that you're honoring Steve Jobs' death with a 3 day silence.”

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