Google Cloud blames “combination of rare issues” for customer's mysterious outage

A close up of a building with the Google Cloud logo on the outside, with orange clouds in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Google Cloud has blamed a week-long service outage at Australian pension fund UniSuper on a flurry of technical problems, described as ‘one-of-a-kind’.

UniSuper’s private cloud subscription was deleted as a result, preventing users from accessing their pension funds. The firm's services are now partially restored and there is no indication that this disruption was the result of a cyber attack

Beginning on 2 May, UniSuper issued a statement calling attention to a service disruption affecting the firm’s systems, acknowledging that the issue was associated with one of the company’s third-party service providers.

According to posts on social media, UniSuper’s services had already been down for three days without acknowledgment from the firm.

This led to speculation that the outage may be the result of a data breach, as users had not been warned of planned maintenance or reassured about a technical issue. 

“Even if it’s not, as a large financial firm managing people’s retirement funds, it feels totally unacceptable to lock people out of their accounts with no acknowledgment for this amount of time,” one user commented.

UniSuper has so far maintained that this service disruption was not the result of a cyber attack and that no data had been put at risk. 

The following day, UniSuper revealed the identity of the third-party service provider to be Google Cloud in a joint statement from the two firms, although no specific detail was given as to the cause of the incident. 

Some clarity as to the firms’ restoration efforts was provided on 6 May when UniSuper CEO Peter Chun issued a member update via email.

“While a full root cause analysis is ongoing, Google Cloud has confirmed this is an isolated one-of-a-kind issue that has not previously arisen elsewhere,” Chun said.

"Google Cloud has confirmed that they are taking measures to ensure this issue does not happen again,” he added.


Chun said the firm expected to begin the restoration of member services from Thursday 9, with the expectation that login capabilities, mobile app access, and balance visibility functions would all be brought back online in some capacity. 

Google Cloud made an individual statement on Tuesday 7, claiming that the disruption of service was created through “a combination of rare issues at Google Cloud”.

Specifically, an error during the provisioning of UniSuper’s cloud systems triggered a “previously unknown” software bug that ultimately led to the service disruption, the firm explained.

“This was an unprecedented occurrence, and measures have been taken to ensure this issue does not happen again,” Google Cloud stated.

More details were revealed on Wednesday 8 in a joint statement from Chun and Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, which confirmed that issues at Google led to the deletion of UniSuper’s private cloud subscription.

“This is an isolated, ‘one-of-a-kind occurrence’ that has never before occurred with any of Google Cloud’s clients globally. This should not have happened,” the statement read.

Though UniSuper reportedly had duplication in two geographies as a protection against outage or data loss, the deletion of the firm's private cloud subscription affected both of these locations.

As of Thursday 9, the two firms appear to have remedied the majority of the issues and members can now login to their online UniSuper accounts, as well as view their balances and up-to-date investment information.

UniSuper warned customers that balances may not yet reflect transactions affected by the outage and that services will continue to be progressively brought back online.

ITPro has approached Google Cloud for clarification.

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.