Amazon Cloud Outage Gives VARs Opportunity To Take Lead, Educate

Amazon's cloud outage and what caused it are still under investigation, and Amazon has come under fire for its lack of communication around the outage.

But Amazon's fumble can be turned into a victory for channel partners, who have the opportunity to take the lead and help clients navigate the silence surrounding the outage. While Amazon's lack of consistent updates during the cloud outage angered users, Amazon's radio silence gave cloud solution providers and VARs the chance to step in and take control.

"Amazon didn't come with an explanation until days later," said Vanessa Alvarez, a Forrester Research analyst. "That could have been an opportunity for a VAR."

Alvarez said the Amazon cloud outage opened the door for solution providers to add value in the form of keeping customers abreast of the situation, offering customers options and helping them examine other providers. Solution providers were also valuable for customers looking to determine whether to move off of Amazon altogether and to educate their client base around the ins and outs of the cloud.

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"They could be that broker, that hands on resource that companies need," she said.

Amazon still hasn't determined what caused the multi-day cloud outage that rocked the cloud computing industry and drew fire from customers, prompting cloud solution providers to call Amazon's cloud outage a "cautionary tale" of cloud computing.

"[T]he team is working very diligently on the root causes and learnings from this event, and will share the post mortem shortly," Amazon wrote in its AWS Service Health Dashboard at 7 p.m. Eastern Tuesday.

Last Thursday, Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Relational Database Service (RDS) suffered service interruptions and outages for users of Amazon's North Virginia data center. Amazon said the trouble was in its Elastic Block Storage (EBS) service in which some data was getting "stuck."

By Monday, Amazon's cloud services had fully returned to normal, however, a small percentage of customer data was lost forever and Amazon was contacting those customers.

"We have completed our remaining recovery efforts and though we've recovered nearly all of the stuck volumes, we've determined that a small number of volumes (0.07% of the volumes in our US-East Region) will not be fully recoverable. We're in the process of contacting these customers," Amazon wrote on the Health Dashboard shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern Monday.

Amazon has not said how many customers were affected and has not responded to requests for additional comment.

Cloud solution providers said the outage highlights the important role VARs and integrators can play for clients to help them build and understand reliable cloud solution, while offering services and support around them.

"Companies really need to partner with service providers/integrators who have experience architecting solutions in the cloud in order to minimize impact to their services during outages like those seen last week," said Jeremy Przygode, CEO of Stratalux, a Los Angeles-based cloud solution provider. "If companies simply think of IaaS services as virtualization of existing services without re-architecting their solutions then they will get into trouble as many did last week. Those companies who partnered with cloud specific service providers and/or integrators will weather the storm a lot better than those who don’t."

NEXT: 'This Amazon Thing Is Scary'

Michal Kirven, co-founder and principal of solution provider Bluewolf, said the outage showed that cloud support from a trusted advisor is key, especially when frustrated users await status updates during downtime.

"They need to partner with a firm they can get on the phone and talk through issues with."

Paul Hilbert, partner at Network Doctor, an Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based hosting and cloud solution provider, said Amazon's downtime also illustrates the benefits of partnering with a company that has control over data and servers.

"It's good for our hosting business," he said. "It shows we're in control of our servers."

Hilbert said he recently referred a small business to use public cloud services, but the Amazon outage soured them from making the move. That shows that a major event like the Amazon cloud outage is an opportunity for solution providers and MSPs to share their knowledge with clients.

"End users really need to be educated on this," Hilbert said. "This Amazon thing is scary."

Jeff Hine, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, agreed. He said one of the many lessons learned from the Amazon cloud outage was that the cloud is not the appropriate place for all applications. It also brought to the surface that the cloud isn't always the best option.

"The takeaway for me is that service providers and the market in general did a god job of making people believe the cloud is going to be easier and better," Hine said. "It's not going to be easier and better. It's just going to be different."

Hine said that difference gives solution providers an opportunity to cut through the hype for their clients. The Amazon outage opens the door for VARs to have the discussion of what should go in the cloud and what shouldn't.

"It's exactly the opportunity for them to step in and have that appropriateness conversation, to help an end user sort through what can go cloud and what can't go cloud," he said.

It's also gives solution providers to have a discussion with clients about whether public or private clouds are the best method.

"There's a lot of value to be added there," Hine said.