Late last year, there was a news story that was anything but real news, despite how the technology and business press covered it: Verizon had outages. Treated as huge news, because Verizon claims to have the “most reliable network,” Verizon was virtually tarred and feathered for having a few bad days last year, wherein the weather contributed to Verizon services going off-line. What the sensationalists in the media and business sectors neglected to consider was that Verizon’s claim to be the “most reliable network” did not mean that the service would not fail; it is a claim that their network will fail less than its other major competitors! Verizon, of course, got service back up and running, but there were weeks of analysis – i.e. how did this failure of service happen, who’s to blame for the failure, etc. Now, it looks like tech sector enthusiasts are likely to endure a series of similar article.
At the end of June, several states along the East Coast of the United States were hit with severe thunderstorms. While the mainstream press has focused on the meteorological causes, the human casualties and the always eagerly-reported estimates of damage in terms of cash value, the tech press has focused on how the thunderstorms have disrupted online services. This time around, Mother Nature has taken a pretty severe swipe at Amazon.com.
Amazon Web Services, a powerful digital division of Amazon.com, is taking a fall similar to the fall Verizon took late last year. As the home to many significant websites or Cloud-based programs, when Amazon Web Services’ servers were disrupted, it exposed just how powerful Amazon’s digital arm truly is. Facebook’s Instagram’s service went down, as did current Internet darling Pinterest. Ironically, one of the significant competitors to the popular Amazon Prime streaming service, Netflix, houses its programs on AWS servers and was down for part of the day.
The thunderstorm’s damage to Amazon Web Services is hardly an audacious or even surprising act. For all of humanity’s technological growth, no person, company, or device controls the weather. While it is true that we have gotten far better at predicting weather and technology has been developed to better survive meteorological events, no country or company has successfully devised a way to control the weather. As a result, it is utterly unsurprising that every once in a long while – and in the grand sum of human history, a few hours of disrupted services twice a year certainly constitutes a non-event – human technology will fail in the face of an unregulated weather system.
What users are learning from the recent AWS outages is just how interconnected the Internet actually is. The sheer volume of sites and services managed by Amazon Web Services is astounding. Users are also getting one of their most potent lessons in what a bad idea Cloud-storage can be. Cloud-storage services from Amazon Web Services were some of the last applications restored following the thunder storms. Say what you will about the benefits of Cloud-storage, but a power outage will not make your DVD collection disappear! DVDs started to look real good to many bored tech enthusiasts who found themselves cut off from their digital libraries as a result of the AWS outage.
While Amazon was quick to respond to the outage and services were restored with varying degrees of speed, the story lingers. But for all the pundits might want to make of it, Amazon did nothing wrong; it is just a company that exists in a very real world that does not behave the way users hope a virtual world would operate.
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