Amazon Web Services Hiccups — And Thousands Of Websites Fail

Sometimes a small issue can have big, big ripples — a fact that the web-using population of the Eastern United States learned yesterday when a technical failure at Amazon Web Services managed to ding hundreds of thousands of websites.

The failure started around 15 minutes to 10 Tuesday (Feb 28) and ran for about four hours.  The difficulties apparently originated in Amazon’s simple storage service.

And the effects were rather widely felt.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission went down — and Netflix and Amazon’s video streaming also bit the dust temporarily. Expedia, Slack and Snapchat stayed online — sort of — but function wasn’t good, where it existed. Apple got hit with a series of problems — the App store, Apple Music and iCloud back-up were all non-functional.

“People are sort of realising how much of the internet relies on Amazon,” said Dave Bartoletti, an analyst at Forrester.

He also noted that despite the outage, most hold AWS to be rather stable and trustworthy.

“This is not a trend, in my view — the cloud is getting increasingly more reliable over time,” he said.

As of yet, it is unknown what caused the error at Amazon.

Amazon Web Services is in many ways Amazon’s cash cow — bringing $12 billion in revenues last year.  It is also behind the bulk of the firm’s operating profits and is far and away the largest public cloud provider in the U.S., with more than ten times as much storage capacity as each of its nearest rivals, Microsoft and Google.

AWS clients include the Central Intelligence Agency and dozens of Fortune 500 companies, including Deloitte, General Electric, Kellogg’s, Comcast and Condé Nast.

The firm claims its cloud is 99.99 percent reliable.

Yesterday, everyone got a taste of what that .01 percent unreliable looks like.


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