Lightning Causes Amazon, Microsoft Cloud Outages In Europe

Amazon's and Microsoft's cloud computing infrastructures suffered major cloud outages

The Irish lightning strike caused downtime for many Amazon and Microsoft customers using the two cloud colossuses cloud computing services, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

The outages were sparked when a bolt of lightning struck a transformer at a power utility provider in Dublin, which caused an explosion that killed the power.

On its Amazon Web Services Service Health Dashboard, Amazon reported issues with Amazon EC2 and Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) around 2 a.m. Eastern. Early Monday morning Amazon said it was still working to bring the services fully back online.

"We understand at this point that a lighting strike hit a transformer from a utility provider to one of our Availability Zones in Dublin, sparking an explosion and fire," Amazon wrote. "Normally, upon dropping the utility power provided by the transformer, electrical load would be seamlessly picked up by backup generators. The transient electric deviation caused by the explosion was large enough that it propagated to a portion of the phase control system that synchronizes the backup generator plant, disabling some of them. Power sources must be phase-synchronized before they can be brought online to load. Bringing these generators online required manual synchronization."

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According to Amazon, EC2 instances were being brought back within three hours of the lightening strike, and within about 12 hours 60 percent of instances had been restored.

Meanwhile, Microsoft detailed the downtime for BPOS on its Microsoft Online twitter feed. BPOS was also knocked offline for several hours by the lightning strike. According to Microsoft Online, European BPOS services were restored within four hours. In a statement, Microsoft said "a widespread power outage in Dublin caused connectivity issues."

While neither Amazon's nor Microsoft's U.S.-based cloud services were impacted by the storm and resulting power failures, Dublin, where the clouds are hosted, serves as a major IT center for U.S.-based companied doing business in Europe and the U.K. due to geography, connectivity, climate and available work force, according to Dublin's temperature is said to be ideal for data center cooling, enabling them to avoid costly and power-sapping cooling systems.

The Dublin cloud downtime for Amazon and Microsoft come on the heels of several high profile cloud outages this year for both cloud companies.

In April, Amazon suffered a massive cloud outage that knocked some of its customers' sites offline for several days.

And Microsoft BPOS has been plagued by cloud outages lately. Between May 10 and May 13, Microsoft BPOS suffered a string of cloud outages that caused lengthy cloud e-mail delays for BPOS users. Then, on May 19, Microsoft said its Exchange Online cloud e-mail service was hit with a software problem that caused intermittent e-mail delays for customers in the Americas. And in June and July, Microsoft BPOS suffered cloud outages that not only kicked BPOS services offline, but took down its Online Services Health Dashboard, meaning users had no access to updated information about the cloud downtime.