Lights Out: 7 Notable AWS Outages Since 2011

All Eyes On AWS

All clouds go down. But when you dominate the market, expect a lot of attention when it's your turn.

Such was the case Tuesday when a human error at an Amazon Web Services data center in Virginia caused a widespread outage, the worst the public cloud behemoth experienced in four years. As with any AWS issue -- be it a hiccup or worse -- the tremendous size of the provider's customer base, and the number of service providers who use it as a platform, magnified the problem.

Such outages weren't uncommon in AWS' early years, back when it was pioneering the market. Two or three major events a year once was the norm, but that's not the case anymore.

Still, in light of the recent failure and the storm of scrutiny it garnered, CRN decided to take a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of those moments Amazon would most likely prefer to forget.

Thunder Down Under: June 2016

As storms pummeled Sydney in June 2016, an Amazon Web Services region in the area lost power, and a number of EC2 instances and EBS volumes hosting critical workloads for name-brand companies subsequently failed. Websites and online services went down across the Australian AWS availability zone for roughly 10 hours that weekend, disrupting everything from banking services to pizza deliveries.

DNS Denial: November 2014

Amazon Web Services' CloudFront DNS server went down for two hours in November 2014. Some websites and cloud services were knocked offline as the content delivery network failed to fulfill DNS requests during the outage.

Friday the 13th Failure: September 2013

This Friday the 13th outage in September 2013, caused by a load balancing problem, took out some regional customers. Amazon resolved the connectivity issues for the load balancers and increased provisioning times to prevent the issue going forward. While the service was only down for about two hours and affected only a single availability zone in Virginia, it served as an important reminder for companies to have backup plans.

Merry Christmas: December 2012

Amazon Web Service suffered an outage on Christmas Eve in 2012 that ended up taking out Netflix during what surely would have been a busy night of online movie delivery. The prestigious customer pointed the finger at Amazon for the unfortunate turn of events, creating a lasting memory of this event.

Back to Back: June 2012

Amazon's Virginia data center saw a service disruption in June 2012 that halted operations for about six hours, affecting scores of customers. On Oct. 22, another problem in Virginia caused websites to fail for many customers. The dual outages from the leading provider made many business leaders feel uneasy about cloud adoption just as the idea was really starting to take off in the enterprise.

Short But Not Sweet: August 2011

A brief, yet impactful, AWS outage knocked down several marquee customers for up to 30 minutes that August. Netflix, Quora, Reddit and Foursquare were all knocked offline and took to social networks to keep customers abreast of developments. Amazon said the outage was caused by connectivity issues between three of its different Availability Zones and the Internet. The outage affected Amazon Web Services Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon's Relational Database Service (RDS).

Darkness Then Silence: April 2011

This was the premier outage of 2011, drawing major attention to the cloud's sometimes fragile state and showcasing that when the going gets tough, communication is key. Some of Amazon's biggest customers were offline for several days.

As customers struggled to get back up and running, the cloud juggernaut was silent. A week had passed before Amazon released a highly-technical, long-winded chronicle of the failure. Amazon blamed a "re-mirroring storm" and offered customers an apology and credits. The incident was seen by many as a lesson in how not to handle an outage.