Monday, February 18, 2008

Amazon Web Services Outage Causes Concern

As reported in the New York Times:

A few days after the BlackBerry e-mail system’s latest downtime, Amazon is giving companies another reason to worry about outsourcing company-critical functions.

Amazon’s S3 service, which offers cheap, accessible Web storage for hundreds of thousands of companies, went down this morning at around 7:30 a.m. Eastern time and is only now slowly creeping back up, delivering high error rates, according to various bloggers and posters on Web forums.

S3, one of Amazon’s stable of Web services, lets businesses store their data “in the cloud,” avoiding the need to operate their own servers. It is part of the same online infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own business. Over 330,000 developers have registered to use Amazon Web Services, up more than 30,000 from last quarter, according to Amazon’s recent quarterly earnings announcement.

An Amazon spokesman said: “We’ve resolved this issue and performance is returning to normal levels for all Amazon Web Services that were impacted. We understand the critical importance of our services to our customers, which is why operational excellence is our highest priority.”

The technical problems affected a host of startups that use S3, such as the messaging service Twitter. The New York Times also uses S3 to store and deliver articles from its historical archives, parts of which were unavailable this morning.

On Amazon’s Web developer forum, the natives are restless. “My business is effectively closed right now because Amazon did something wrong. I’ll have to reconsider using the service now,” wrote one poster at around 9 a.m. Eastern time this morning.

Will all of this hurt Amazon? This is the first significant problem for S3, so if they fix the problem quickly and communicate clearly to customers, probably not. But if it proves to be a continuing problem — like the now biannual BlackBerry blackouts — expect nervous tech folks to at the very least begin considering backup systems.

UPDATE: Here’s another statement from an Amazon spokeman:

“For one of our services, the Amazon Simple Storage Service, one of our three geographic locations was unreachable for approximately two hours and was back to operating at over 99% of normal performance before 7 a.m. pacific standard time. We’ve been operating this service for two years and we’re proud of our uptime track record. Any amount of downtime is unacceptable and we won’t be satisfied until it’s perfect. We’ve been communicating with our customers all morning via our support forums and will be providing additional information as soon as we have it.”

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