Amazon Web Services' Failures Are Black Eye For EC2 Cloud Computing


The stunning Amazon Web Services revelation that an outage last week was due to two hardware failures is a big black eye for Amazon's EC2 and the cloud computing model.

Information Week's Charles Babcock broke the news this morning in a story detailing the exact cause of the Amazon Web Services' EC2 cloud mishap.

Through some good old-fashioned solid reporting, Babcock has gotten some answers from Amazon Web Services that give us a compelling portrait of what can go wrong with a cloud model. The bottom line: Amazon Web Services' EC2 Cloud failed due to a "failure of a power supply in one availability zone in the data center followed by a second failure of a component in the redundant system." So two hardware failures pulled down the Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud. What's wrong with this picture?

As Babock notes, Amazon Web Services initially attributed the EC2 outage to a connectivity issue and then acknowledged a power issue. When Babcock asked an Amazon spokesman whether the power issue was inside the data center or an issue with an external supplier, the Amazon spokesperson replied that "a single component of the redundant power distribution system failed in this zone. Prior to completing the repair of this unit, a second component, used to assure redundant power paths, failed as well, resulting in a portion of the servers in that availability zone losing power."

The Amazon Web Services disclosure reveals the dangers and pitfalls for corporations moving to the cloud. Zero downtime is the standard for corporate America today. A retailer relying on the Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud for the hosting of an e-commerce site could have lost millions of dollars in sales. Those are sales that would be lost forever. And that does not count lost sales from customers that simply will never again rely on the e-commerce site because of the outage.

Amazon Web Services dropped the ball big time. The EC2 failure is going to stick in the craw of any CEO or CIO looking to cut internal IT costs by moving to the cloud.

Babcock and Information Week have given the entire IT community a lesson in what can go wrong with the cloud model. For that, the entire IT community is in their debt.