I had occasion to visit the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles [DMV] this morning. Although, contrary to popular mythology, all of the staff I encountered there were very polite and helpful, I observed that at least some of their computer systems, run by VITA [Virginia Information Technologies Agency] are still not working, since people who wanted to apply for or renew their driving licenses were being told that it would not be possible today. This was confirmed by a DMV press release issued yesterday. (I did check before I went to ensure that my transaction could be handled., as indeed it was.)
Apparently VITA has still not recovered from the outage that started last Wednesday afternoon and brought down a significant proportion of their “high reliability” infrastructure. So their service is still not restored, on the sixth calendar day (fifth business day for the DMV) since the original equipment failure. I worked as an IT Director at a couple of different investment banking firms, and I can assure you that if we had experienced a six hour failure, I would have received an immediate field promotion to Former IT Director.
But people whose licenses are expiring, or have already expired, don’t have to worry. Owing to a particularly stupid piece of legislation, they will be able to enjoy a special inconvenience when (if?) the system ever is back in service.
If your driver’s license or ID card has an expiration date of August 25 through 30 and you must renew in person at a DMV office, when service is restored you will need to bring your birth certificate, passport, or other document that confirms you are a U.S. citizen or legally authorized by the federal government to be in the country. This requirement is Virginia law and cannot be waived by DMV.
I’m reminded of the time when I moved back to the US from the UK, and had to get a Virginia driving license. I made the initial mistake; I thought my existing New York driver’s license was still valid, but I was wrong. I had a perfectly valid English driving license, but the DMV didn’t want to know about that. So, like a real rookie, I had to take a road test again — which was a joke — and I had to supply documents proving my identity and legal residence.
The state was gracious enough to accept my US passport as one of the documents, but the expired New York license was no good — who knows who I might have become once I was no longer under the legal imprimatur of New York? I didn’t have an official copy of my birth certificate. After looking at the list of acceptable documents, I got a certificate from the public school system confirming that I had graduated from a Virginia high school a few decades earlier, and got my license. That was really just bad luck, though; if I only had had a certificate from my parole officer, that would have done nicely.
Update Monday, 30 August, 16:30 EDT
According to the manufacturer of the storage system, the events that led to the outage appear to be unprecedented. The manufacturer reports that the system and its underlying technology have an exemplary history of reliability, industry-leading data availability of more than 99.999% and no similar failure in one billion hours of run time.
The manufacturer says it’s OK? Well, then that’s all right.