March 5, 2004

Webmail shuts down Thursday

Plaisance, the machine that allows members of the University community to read their mail, was shut down yesterday due to a loss of memory. Thirty mailboxes were corrupted.

The e-mail system was up and running by around 9 p.m., when engineers and networking security information services (NSIT) staff began to troubleshoot for the cause of the memory loss. However, students could not access Webmail through the Internet.

Bob Bartlett, director of enterprise network services and network security director of NSIT, said that they would begin delivery Thursday evening, once they understood what had caused the problem initially.

"The system is up and operational, but we're just running checks to understand what happened with it. If there are any hardware problems, we'll fix them. Plaisance is such a large machine that the conditions must have been abnormal that it filled up and ran out of memory. We just need to find out what the problem is," Bartlett said on Thursday. He also added that people would probably be able to read their mail by Friday morning.

The problem, said Greg Jackson, vicepresident and chief information officer at NSIT, was "experiencing huge loads." Like Bartlett, he saw no reason why this would happen to such a high capacity. Jackson said that a memory-loss glitch caused the server to think that it has more work than it can handle.

A new virus on campus coincided with the spike in mail volume, although Bartlett said NSIT was not sure if that was the source of the problem or even relevant.

By five p.m., on Thursday, Sun Microsystems engineers arrived and, with NSIT systems engineers, ran Plaisance through hardware diagnostics and reviewed logs.

Jackson said that the Plaisance generally handles half a million messages per day.

Brian Glasenapp, a graduate student in music, said that he had to copy his paper by hand from the application Notepad.

Rebecca Louie, a fourth-year, saved the most recent draft of her B.A. paper which is due tomorrow on Webmail. Fortunately, she had saved a reasonably recent draft on a computer in the library.

Tanya Baker, a USITE/Harper computing assistant, said that she learned of the lapse in the mail server when she tried to send an e-mail to the Kerry 2004 listhost, and she did not get a copy of her e-mail sent back to her.

Bartlett said that the 30 individuals with corrupted mailboxes would be notified. He also said that a lot of mail had been backed up on Midway, the machine that initially sends mails to Plaisance, which delivers them. Once the corrupted mails and backed-up mails were dealt with, Bartlett said, the delivery process would begin.

"The main reason for delaying delivery is that so much mail has been backed up on Midway that we want to make sure it is delivered properly," Bartlett said. "If people are reading their mails while we are dealing with backed-up and corrupted ones, it would be harder for us to deliver those mails later on."