The cutting edge of the Web just bled a little.
On Friday night, lightning in Virginia took out part of Amazon’s cloud computing service, called Amazon Web Services, which hundreds of companies use for data storage and computation. Well-known sites like Netflix, Pinterest and Instagram were not accessible for hours. There was little information for customers about what had happened, or even whether user data was safe.
The interruption underlined how businesses and consumers are increasingly exposed to unforeseen risks and wrenching disruptions as they increasingly embrace life in the cloud. It was also a big blow to what is probably the fastest-growing part of the media business, start-ups on the social Web that attract millions of users seemingly overnight.
Besides Internet-connected computers, tablets and smartphones, which people rely on daily, consumers and businesses are connected to the Web through everything from cars and appliances to utility monitors and surveillance cameras. How well the systems behind these are built, and how they handle unforeseen disruptions, will increasingly affect the larger economy.
Amazon has built a thriving business in cloud computing, with a range of customers including Intercontinental Hotels, Fox Entertainment, Unilever, Spotify, as well as 187 government agencies and hundreds of small start-ups looking for the cheapest possible computing.
None of these big customers reported any service disruptions. While it was not clear if they were using the Amazon center that was crippled, analysts said the disruption would cause renewed scrutiny of their dependence on cloud computing.
“The way companies view it is in terms of reliability generally,” said Michael Chui, a senior fellow at McKinsey & Company. Big customers of Amazon, he said, “have the opportunity to shape the marketplace and make demands that make products better. They will push for improvements.”
They will also have another option. On Thursday, Google said it would offer computing over the Internet at half the price of Amazon.
The weekend’s disruption happened after a lightning storm caused the power to fail at the Amazon Web Services center in Northern Virginia containing thousands of computer servers. For reasons Amazon was still unsure of on Sunday, the data center’s backup generator also failed.
By midday Saturday, Amazon said in a statement that it had restored service “to most of our impacted customers, and continue to work to restore service to our remaining impacted customers,” adding, “we will share more details on this event in the coming days.” The company had no further comment.
It was at least the second major failure for Amazon in that area. In April 2011, a problem in Amazon’s networking at a nearby data center took down a number of applications and popular Web sites, including Reddit and Quora, for more than a day.
via New York Times – Quentin Hardy
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