Technical description of the problem:
Computing Services uses Storage Area Network (SAN) technology to support shared disk environments for virtual and physical hosts at CMU. Our hosted instance of Blackboard uses this storage system. Recently, there have been disk failures on the SAN volumes. When these failures occur, the Blackboard connections to the SAN volumes also fail, causing your actions in Blackboard to hang and, ultimately, the front-end service to drop altogether. These recent Blackboard outages are all related to this particular system failure.
NOTE: When a problem occurs, some of you will send us email reports describing the problems you've encountered and the errors you received while trying to access Blackboard. We appreciate this! Your reports help us to troubleshoot the problems. In addition, we have monitoring services in place to let us know when Blackboard is failing.
Short-term actions to address the problem:
As soon as an alert is raised, the team immediately begins to work on the back-end systems to restore services as quickly as possible. However, there is time-intensive work that goes on behind the scenes to restore the SAN volume connections to Blackboard and thus, to bring it back online for your use.
NOTE: Until the underlying problem is resolved, here are some short-term suggestions.
Students: We encourage you to conduct your Blackboard-related work as much in advance as possible and not to rely on Blackboard access at the last minute.
Instructors: Offering some flexibility on student deadlines when there has been an unexpected Blackboard outage may be worth considering. You can find a record of this semester's downtimes at http://www.cmu.edu/blackboard/downtime/.
Actions being taken to resolve the underlying problem:
We are working to address the underlying problem and restore Blackboard to our high standard of system reliability. To accomplish this, Computing Services has acquired new SAN technology software and hardware. They have installed the new SAN volumes and are working through a series of tests on this new SAN infrastructure. Once testing is complete, we will schedule a Blackboard downtime maintenance window to transition/connect Blackboard to the new SAN technology.
We will schedule this changeover to minimize impact on Blackboard users and will communicate it to you very soon to provide advanced notice. Again, we appreciate hearing from you when these difficulties arise and we appreciate your patience as we work to make the service more reliable.
Your Blackboard Support Teams
Office of Technology for Education & Computing Services
Blackboard Support Contact: