Cloud awakening: Amazon Web Services outage illustrates pitfalls of online infrastructure

Bigstock Photo / klevo

Amazon Web Services is one of the greatest successes of modern business and technology, leveraging its first-come advantage in the public cloud to empower businesses with capabilities they couldn’t develop on their own, and creating a lucrative business for herself in the process.

It certainly wasn’t that dreamy Tuesday.

Outages aren’t new, and it’s not the worst we’ve seen, but the issue faced by the widely used AWS US-EAST-1 Region was notable for its widespread impact, illustrating the extraordinary reach of the cloud.

It wasn’t just about declining websites. Day traders could not exchange. Players couldn’t play. Adele could not sell tickets for his next tour, for God’s sake.

The fallout was apparent everywhere you looked, from McDonald’s kiosks at Tinder hookups at NPR podcasts. Seattle-based startup Intelus had the misfortune to launch its company on Tuesday morning with a website hosted on AWS.

Amazon itself was far from immune from the challenges. The company’s employees were unable to use its Chime communications app on their computers for several hours. Amazon Music was not available to many users. COVID-19 test results were not accessible for hours through the company’s postal test service.

Customers of the company’s Ring subsidiary have been cut off from their cameras.

It got worse. In the heart of the company’s e-commerce business, product pages weren’t loading and orders weren’t going through. Customers could not order groceries. Delivery drivers sung at karaoke and eventually returned home the day after their relationship with the app that coordinates their deliveries was severed.

It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Amazon, during a holiday period that was already strained by supply chain bottlenecks.

All of this leads to an obvious question: Has the world become too dependent on the Amazon cloud?

“I think so,” said Corey quinn, Chief Cloud Economist at The duckbill group, when I asked this question in a direct message to Twitter on Tuesday night. He stressed that it could have been much worse: “A total blackout of this region (not the partial one we saw today) means a massive economic event. “

Quinn explained his thoughts in a Twitter thread it is worth reading in full.

What can be done? What happened to the redundancy?

In an article about the AWS outage, Brent Ellis, senior analyst at Forrester, has defined a strategy for companies to minimize their vulnerability. Part of his advice: “Diversify your risk by creating applications and services that can be transferred automatically between multiple cloud providers or private infrastructure when a service fails.” “

In terms of the broader solution to the world’s dependence on AWS, there may not be clear answers at this point, but as Quinn notes, these are important questions to ask.

Ultimately, the solution could come from Amazon itself, and with former AWS chief Andy Jassy heading the company, Amazon should be better positioned than ever to meet this challenge.

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