By on August 28, 2015

Mazda Mobile Start

Mazda’s remote start app, which the automaker rolled out last month, has been suspended until Sept. 2 while the automaker restores its servers, the automaker said in an email Thursday to owners.

… we regret to inform you that, due to a system outage at our supplier’s data center, the MMS website and smartphone application are currently unavailable. We anticipate full system recovery on September 2, 2015.

The email notice stated the service was crippled by a “power outage that affected the data servers.”

Mazda says that users’ data wasn’t compromised in the outage. Early adopters reported to Mazda that the system was particularly slow to start their cars — in some cases taking a minute or longer — and that its app was particularly finicky.

We reached out to Mazda to see if all users are affected and what exactly went wrong with its data center to cause the power outage, but haven’t heard back.

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37 Comments on “BREAKING: Finicky Mazda Remote Start App Has Stopped Working, Power Outage Blamed...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Does this really warrant a “breaking”?

    Phone junkies have to use the clicker on their key to get in and start their new(ish) Mazda. Film at 11.

    • 0 avatar
      Hamilton Guy

      Agree. Probably the most 1st World Problem article I have read in a long time. The horror, the horror.

    • 0 avatar

      It was my call, and I think it does because there’s more to this. It shouldn’t take six days to restore this functionality. Aaron and I both smell something fishy.

      • 0 avatar
        caltemus

        What’s fishy about wanting to make sure they fix it before they bring the system back up? As stated in the article, the service is operated at a external data center. Six business days seems like a totally reasonable amount of time to repair an internet connected data center, especially when the power outage could have damaged systems. With all the news of car hacking I think they’re just being prudent. This is non-news about a niche functionality of one brand of car, and frankly I get the feeling that you don’t hold mazda with much regard after that CX-3 review. You’ve gotta take into account that they’re the only independent mass-market auto company selling autos in America. They have to be careful with any move they make as they cant afford any big mistakes or bad press.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          +1 caltemus. The CX3 review did indicate the new more negative view that the new leadership here takes with Mazda. I only hope if the reason for the delay is not “fishy” that there will be an apology for insinuating that it was.

        • 0 avatar

          “They have to be careful with any move they make as they cant afford any big mistakes or bad press.”

          And I hope that’s all it is.

          Considering the estimated number of vehicles using this service — and the load on the system generated by that small number of vehicles — I can’t see the solution being all that complex. The load probably doesn’t justify a system that’s incredibly large. Six days isn’t a lot of time, but you’d think they have a backup solution for when this type of issue occurs.

          However, there were reports the solution can take up to 60-120 seconds to start the vehicle. That, in itself, is newsworthy. The solution isn’t performing well by consumer standards, and that’s before this power outage.

          As far as my regard for Mazda, I treat them the same as I treat any other automaker — with complete indifference. The CX-3 is a great car when viewed in a vacuum, but makes no sense when sitting beside a Mazda3.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            “The CX-3 is a great car when viewed in a vacuum, but makes no sense when sitting beside a Mazda3.” That is for the consumer to decide – the thrust of your article for the CX3 was that consumers were stupid and couldn`t cross shop within the same showroom.
            The same argument can be made for any of these small CUV’s.

          • 0 avatar

            @mike978 The fact remains … you get less cargo and no increase in ride height in the CX-3 versus the Mazda3. What you do get is an automatic transmission as standard and body cladding … and a higher MSRP. Add all-wheel drive and you are well above the Mazda3 when comparatively equipped.

            On the basis of that, it’s a bad deal. On the basis of just wanting a “crossover”, it’s a good little car.

        • 0 avatar
          Sgt Beavis

          Anyone in IT that knows a damn thing about IT service management knows that 6 days is not reasonable at all.

          It does not take 6 days to restore power to a datacenter. Mission Critical apps (customer facing apps are considered mission critical from a business perspective) are kept in datacenters with backup power. Usually a huge diesel generator. Competent datacenters have dual power circuits as well as those backup generators. Servers or blade enclosures also have dual power. Power outages rarely bring down the entire DC.

          Even if this isn’t considered a mission critical workload, 6 days is FAR too long. Most Development workloads have a recovery point of 24 – 48 hours.

          This datacenter is with a service provider. Why is Mazda the only one affected. There would have been other reports of outages. A major outage would have cause a disaster recovery event in which Mazda’s mission critical workloads would be restarted elsewhere.

          Most workloads are also virtualized. A failure of a virtualized host would cause the workload to be restarted on another host.

          Datacenters have redundancies upon redundancies built for their workloads. Either the service host provider is totally incompetent (which is entirely possible) or something else has gone down. If there were a security breach, Mazda would be very wise to shut everything down, but not disclosing such a breach is likely illegal.

          Of course this is just speculation on my part…

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Mark – I don`t disagree about the relative value of the CX3 vs the Mazda 3. However the same could be said for the Hodna Pilot and the Honda Odyssey – the Odyssey is cheaper and bigger, but the Pilot has the raised ride height and body cladding.

            Your CX3 review harped on about the nomenclature, if they called it the CX2 then you would be happy? CX3<CX5<CX9 seems logical.
            I assume you are also annoyed with Honda calling their new sub compact SUV from Honda is the HRV when the bigger brother is the CRV. Surely H should be bigger than C?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            As someone who works in the storage and backup industry, yup, that’s the theory. In reality – what can go wrong will go wrong. Power goes out, generator doesn’t cut in as expected, servers crash, data corrupts. Oops, now we find that the backups are no good. Doh! Six days to get it all back again… Shouldn’t happen, but it does all the time.

            Same with the performance issues – probably worked great in testing, real world not-so-much… They will get it all sorted out eventually.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Perhaps its the tip of an iceberg, had not occurred to me.

        But breaking this down in my head: Phone over WAN sends command to Mazda website, Mazda server probably ack/nacks to the phone and then sends a command to car via satellite (?) to start the car. This is too complicated and has more points of failure than building a button into a key to send a radio command to start the car.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          This stands a huge chance of getting MITM’ed if Mazda hasn’t done their security well.

          Datacentres—or at least any any halfway-decent DC—don’t lose power for six days unless civilization crumbles, and they rarely lose power at all as most have enough battery to float a few minutes and generators to go several days.

          That said, it’s more likely that someone built a really crappy clustered app (clustering is _hard_) and it didn’t come up correctly.

          This is why you test hard-down events.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          I doubt it’s via satellite. It’s most likely regular cellular data.

          The complex tech lies outside of Mazda’s control (cell network, internet), but that’s not what failed.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        I work in the industry that supplies power to data centers and I can promise you that if we were responsible for a power outage at a data center many things would happen:

        1. many have two circuits going to them to eliminate the likelihood of power going out outside of a catastrophic event
        1a. backup generators would kick in
        2. it would mean hundreds of thousands of people would be without power, not just data centers – for 6 days? it would be national news
        3. heads would be rolling

        That is, of course, if it were a power outage at the source, not within the servers themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          “That is, of course, if it were a power outage at the source, not within the servers themselves.”

          It’s possible it was one or two PDUs that went. Again, though, if you’re not hosted somewhere that has redundant power in the rack and/or you’re using single-PS gear, you didn’t do your job.

          Either this is a security failing being covered up, or someone designed a crappy app. I’m better the latter, having seen lots of bad things hosted in boxes sitting under someone’s desk.

      • 0 avatar
        NotFast

        Good call. This isn’t just an application stopped working, this smells (to a cynical IT guy) of Mazda paying some company to host this service in a remote, badly maintained datacenter. I’m just speculating, but this DC could be in some 3rd world hellhole with poor power and no redundancy.

        If so, hopefully the Mazda exec that picked this vendor will be on his way out but that’s not likely.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          ” I’m just speculating, but this DC could be in some 3rd world hellhole with poor power and no redundancy.”

          It’s more likely to be sitting under the desk of a programmer for some two-member “app development & solutions provider” company that bid low on the contract.

          The code might not be bad (it might not be good, either) but it’s not surprising to see even good (or good and relatively novice) developers cut infrastructure in order to secure a bid. Even if you do it via AWS or Azure, it’s potentially expensive and often one of the first things cut because you can always move the machines later.

          That said, if they’ve half-assed infrastructure, they’ve probably _also_ half-assed security.

          • 0 avatar
            carloss

            >That said, if they’ve half-assed infrastructure,
            > they’ve probably _also_ half-assed security.

            That’s a very good (and scary) point.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        I agree. Most data centers have generator backup. A restore shouldnt have taken long either – and havent they heard of virtualization?

    • 0 avatar
      Zoom

      Maybe it’s taking this long because Mazda is actually finding a different data center?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    OMG you mean there going to have to think outside the box and use that thing called a fob. What’s next an app that changes your oil for you?

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      A fob? Would a key be too old school?

    • 0 avatar
      mncarguy

      I have a 2014 CX5 with factory installed remote start. When I’m home and the car is in the garage, it’s nice to warm it up in the winter. If I’m out at a restaurant or at the health club and use the fob, it usually gives the message it didn”t work (the car is too far or the signal couldn’t go through the wall). Sometimes it actually worked, and sometimes it didn’t. No matter what it said. I have friends who have cars with remote start apps on their phones. They work no matter where the user and car are. I’d rather have the app, if it worked, but I don’t want to pay another $500 plus the yearly charge.

  • avatar
    slance66

    As someone who just bought at CX-5 on Monday, I don’t care. Didn’t even know about the app and don’t plan to use it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sgt Beavis

      Good for you… But consider this.

      What if this were really a security breach. Your CX-5 could potentially be vulnerable, even though you don’t use the app.

      Of course this is speculation..

      • 0 avatar
        Funky

        I think an additional piece of hardware must be added to the vehicle before one can use the app; therefore I wouldn’t worry about it, unless you sprang for that additional optional item at the time of purchase.

      • 0 avatar
        Demetri

        The remote start utility is dealer installed option; if the kit hasn’t been installed in your car, it doesn’t communicate with these servers (which is basically everyone, because why would anyone want to pay $500 for a kit and $65 a year so your phone can do what your key fob does).

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Not so zoom-zoomy.

  • avatar
    probert

    Note to MAzda: A 12 year old with a windows tower does not a server make. Tome to make that big $1000.00 investment.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Keyfob? Remote start?

    Guess Mazdas too cheap for that.

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    Ridiculous. Power outages do not affect data centers. Alternative power is always available even if it’s generators.

    My guess: They’re not paying their data usage fees. Those are usually calculated on some mixture of bytes transferred and simultaneous connections.

    So they’re changing service providers or moving to a less expensive location. In India likely.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Or theyve seen something suspicious in the logs.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      LOL – you don’t think datacenters have power outages!? On of my colleagues was doing an install at a major university datacenter when the facilities guys decided to power wash the loading dock. The loading dock that was directly above the electrical isolation switch that connected the incoming power and the generator power. Oops, whole DC down for three days while the mess was sorted out. Some things were replicated elsewhere, but most was not.

      More recently, friend of mine is a PM for TD Bank – they lost power to one of their main DCs in Toronto. Backup power didn’t. Whole DC crashed hard, more than a week to recover everything. In this case, these were “production dev” environments, so no end customers were affected, but 1000’s of developers were cooling their jets for most of a week. In an ideal world everything is multiply redundant, in the real world that costs too much for all but the very most important applications. And a remote car starter app is probably FAR from that for Mazda.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    My 1974 Oldsmobile Toronado has TWO smart-key apps.
    They’re known as two steel keys.
    It also has memory windows; you just have to remember where the switch is!

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