Cloud Solution Providers: Amazon Cloud Outage A 'Cautionary Tale'


Amazon's cloud outage, which lasted about four days and crippled a number of Web sites, is a black eye on the emerging cloud computing market. But Amazon's cloud failure is a cautionary tale that shines a spotlight on the need for a solid cloud plan and that can create a host of new opportunities for cloud solution providers.

Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Relational Database Service (EDS) suffered service interruptions and downtime starting early Thursday morning last week, knocking many customer Web sites offline or causing poor performance. The Amazon cloud outage persisted through the weekend.

By Monday, Amazon was still seeking the root cause of the cloud outage and interruption and the vast majority of Amazon customers had returned to full service. Amazon traced the issue to its Elastic Block Storage (EBS) in its North Virginia data center, saying that data was getting "stuck," but the Amazon is still probing the true cause of the cloud outage.

Amazon has not responded to requests for additional comment.

And while Amazon's outage casts a dark shadow on cloud computing, cloud solution providers said the incident won't turn the industry backward into on-premise environments, but could drive opportunities their way as companies seek to avoid downtime and the pitfalls of the cloud that Amazon's outage brought to the forefront.

"It will simply make people plan their cloud architecture and design more, and will create more opportunity for services providers who actually know how to design, build and support such environments," said Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, a North Hollywood cloud solution provider.

Safoian said the outage drew attention to an issue that the industry has known existed, but some have chosen to ignore. "Behind the cloud there are still people, processes, and systems which may fail. We have to plan and design accordingly," he said.

Additionally, cloud trust comes into question as companies determine with which cloud provider to trust their data and where they'll get the most support. "SLAs will be more important, and trust will still be there, but it won't be in the form of blind trust," Safoian said.

Many cloud early adopters have succumbed to blind trust, and have put all faith in their cloud providers. Paul Burns, president of cloud analyst firm Neovise, said Amazon's outage could be an end to that era.

"I hope it helps move customers away from blind trust. If anyone wants to run mission critical applications in the cloud or even in their own datacenters, they need to take some additional steps to ensure availability," Burns said. "It isn't always easy and it isn't always cheap, but customers with mission critical apps need to design in a bit of redundancy.

Burns said an outage like this was bound to rattle the industry, as new technologies often face trials before they become mainstream.

"This outage will be remembered for a long, long time. I think it will have some negative impact in the short term and medium term, but longer term it will probably make cloud computing even stronger," he said. "New technologies tend to go through cycles. Everyone has seen cloud get overhyped for the last couple years. It makes sense for the pendulum to swing the other way a bit. At some point it will probably swing too far to the negative side. There will be more failures for both public and private clouds so I wouldn't be surprised to see a period of negativity."

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