On April 21st 2011 Amazon’s AWS experienced a lot of downtime, upwards of 9 hours for one region. Several companies who rely on Amazon for their cloud services experienced downtime, and even more companies who rely on those companies were out as well. Engine Yard, Foursquare, Hootsuite, Heroku, Quora, and Reddit, all of these had issues or were simply out. Heroku and rstat.us for example were both completely off line.
“The Cloud” has been trending lately. By and large it’s an awesome thing. “It” makes some people fortunes, while saving others.. fortunes. Of course, “The Cloud” is not so ubiquitous and infallible as we’ve come to believe. As more and more people became aware of “The Cloud” (which is still “The Internet”), more and more people fell to believing the Fallacies of Distributed Computing.
I believe I first came across this concept when reading Joel on Software. Essentially, as the internet becomes further entrenched in our lives, we begin to assume it’s just always there. We begin treating remote resources as local resources. Except they’re not.
It’s unfortunate that these services had such downtime. I’ve used many of them and have always had good experiences. But computers, networks, servers, and “clouds” are still made by humans. They’re still fallible.
On a positive note, the industry as a whole has been far more agile in recent years; things like this will only spark better fail-overs, in policy and systems, and probably very quickly. Just imagine if the federal government had a failure like this. It would takes weeks to sort it out, and likely such a fuss would be made in the media that policy and politics would take the stage over whether or not it even got fixed. Six months would pass before a new strategy would be approved, and then another 6 before it was in place.
I had a chance to meet some of the bright minds at Engine Yard. I have a good feeling that they’ve already got a new plan on the drawing board, and wouldn’t be surprised if some of it’s already in motion.
There’s good news though, The Cloud isn’t all bad, if used cautiously: