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Amazon Cloud Outage Revives Reliability Concerns

AWS takes a tumble in the wake of powerful Mid-Atlantic storms, bringing to the forefront fears that continue to dog cloud services.

Oracle's legal maneuverings in the courts didn't bring about the cloud apocalypse, but this weekend showed that there is a force that can bring popular online services to a screeching halt.

Fierce thunderstorms tore through the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. this weekend, causing widespread power outages that affected an Amazon Web Services datacenter in North Virginia. The power failures had the knock-on effect of disabling popular cloud services like Netflix and Pinterest that rely on AWS.

The AWS Health Services dashboard lit up with alerts on Friday night leading into Saturday, most pertaining to services hosted on Amazon's North Virginia data center like EC2, ElastiCache and CloudSearch. At 8:40 PM PDT on Friday, Amazon provided the following EC2 update, "We can confirm that a large number of instances in a single Availability Zone have lost power due to electrical storms in the area."

By 11:19 PM PDT, Amazon was in the thick of recovery operations. "We continue to make progress in recovering affected instances and volumes. Approximately 50% of impacted instances and 33% of impacted volumes have been recovered."

And as is fitting with the cloud's close ties to social media, the news quickly spread the across Twitter. In response to users that took to Twitter to voice their dismay at being unable to 'pin' their online discoveries, Pinterest tweeted:

"Pinterest is currently unavailable due to server outages. Our goal is to be back up by 10:30PM PST. Thanks for your patience!"

Similarly, Netflix offered apologies to users unable to access its streaming library.

"We're sorry for the outage and working to get your Friday streaming back to normal as quickly as possible. Thank you for bearing with us."

Inconveniencing consumers is bad enough, but enterprises seeking to avoid potentially catastrophic damage to their business operations will have to do more than issue tweets, argued Vineet Jain, CEO of cloud storage specialist Egnyte. It's time to consider hybrid clouds.

"Storms on the East Coast have shown us that disruptions in the cloud are inevitable, whether by the hand of Mother Nature or human mishaps," stated Jain. "Enterprises have to respond with an infrastructure strategy that leverages the benefits of a cloud, and hedges that with a behind-the-firewall presence, giving them protection in a variety of circumstances," he added.

Expect businesses to start adopting a mix of on-premise solutions and web-based services as they execute their cloud computing strategies. "Events like these confirm what all the analysts and many companies have been saying, the hybrid cloud approach represents the next generation of the cloud," concluded Jain.

Amazon's outage followed a day after another high profile cloud services provider experienced problems. On Thursday, several Salesforce customers in North America and Europe could not access the CRM platform due to "a rare dual-failure in our storage tier and in the active standby of our storage tier," according to the company.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.




Tags: cloud computing, AWS, Amazon, reliability


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