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Lessons Learned from the Amazon Web Services Outage
The only surprising thing about this AWS outage was that anyone was surprised by it

On Monday, Amazon Web Services — the leading provider of cloud services — suffered an outage, and as a result, a long list of well-known and popular websites went dark. According to Amazon’s Service Health Dashboard, the outage started out as degraded performance of a small number of Elastic Bloc Store (EBS) storage units in the US-EAST-1 Region, then evolved to include problems with the Relational Database Service and Elastic Beanstalk as well.

AWS outage takes down Reddit

WEBSITE DOWN: AWS outage takes down Reddit and other popular sites

The only surprising thing about this AWS outage was that anyone was surprised by it. It wasn’t the first time AWS had a major outage or problems with this data center. If you remember, back in June a line of powerful thunderstorms knocked the power out at a major Amazon hosting center. The backup generator failed, then the software failed, and, well, you know the drill. A corollary of Murphy’s Law is that if multiple things can go wrong, they will all go wrong at once.

In both of these instances (and in all Amazon Web Services outages, in fact) some customers were knocked “off the air” while others continued running without a hiccup. You would think that eventually companies will learn to anticipate the inevitable AWS outages and take active steps to prepare for them. There are best practices and solutions on how to reduce vulnerability to an outage, but they’re rarely implemented. That’s because people don’t think that anything could happen to Amazon — obviously, things happen.

Instances like this are a learning opportunity if we take the time to think about why they happened and what could have been done to prevent them. Here are six lessons that I think we can learn from the Amazon Web Services outages.

Lesson 1 — Clouds are made of components that can fail. When people think of the cloud, they think that there is some amorphous and untouchable blog up in the sky. And while that’s a nice bit of marketing, it is not a useful model for operational planning. Be mindful of your cloud provider’s architecture and how it is built to manage failure of a component or a zone blackout. Then anticipate that failures can happen at any point in the cloud infrastructure.

Lesson 2 — The stress of failure will trigger a cascade of other failures. After reading a description of the outage, you get the sense that it was just one thing after another. What started as a small issue affecting one Northern Virginia data center quickly spread, causing a chain reaction and outage that disrupted much of the Internet for several hours. Remember Murphy and his law?

Lesson 3 – -Spikes matter. When a cloud fails, hundreds of customers are impacted. As they try to recover, they will be stressing the cloud provider’s infrastructure with a peak load that is guaranteed to cause even more problems. If you get these transition spikes, they get worse and worse. Every time you reboot, it takes longer and longer. If you have ten servers doing that, that’s bad. If you spike a thousand servers, that’s really bad. Something that would have taken five minutes to fix will now take five hours when you get into that transition type of syndrome.

Lesson 4 — Cloud providers provide the tools to manage failure, but it is up to you to put your own failover plans in place. AWS, for example, is broken into zones. If a component in the Virginia zone goes down and the whole matrix is dead, then (in theory) you should be able to move all your data to another zone. That other zone might be hosted, unaffected, in Ireland and then you are up and running again. This is one of the big differences between the cloud and more traditional approaches to IT. It is up to the application (and by extension, the application’s designer) to manage its interaction with the cloud environment, up to and including failover. Most cloud providers offer tools and frameworks to support failover, but you are responsible for implementing that best practice into your system operation and into the applications.

Lesson 5 — You need to put your failover plans through a full-blown load test. It’s not enough to have a strategy in place for failover. You have to test it under real-world conditions. Even the best laid failover plans, once implemented and designed, might have hiccups when a real outage occurs. A full-blown cloud load test can help you see how long the failover process will take to kick in and what other dependencies might need to be sorted out. Obviously this isn’t easy. If it was, Reddit, Foursquare, Airbnb and others wouldn’t have been impacted by the AWS outage.

Lesson 6 — Conduct fire drills. While a load test will confirm that your failover plan works as you expect, it will also give your team some real experience in executing the plan. Remember the fire drills you used to do in school? Fire drills help train students, teachers, and others to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to go in the event of an emergency. All the bugs in the process are worked out during the fire drill, and the more everybody does the drills, the more comfortable there are with what they need to do. And if a real emergency happens, everybody knows how to leave the building calmly. You want to do the same thing with your failover plan, and load testing can help you get there. Fire drills save lives and load tests save cloud apps.

Is your failure worth more than $28?

Amazon offers reimbursement to its customers based on the amount of downtime the customer experiences. The last time our Amazon Web Services went down, we got a $28 reimbursement. So my final lesson learned (I guess this makes for seven lessons) is this: The cost of downtime for your organization — in lost revenue, poor customer experience, etc. — is far, far greater than just what you are paying your cloud provider. $28 is not going to save your day. You have to make sure that you have a failover solution that’s ready and working. Don’t wait for Amazon to solve this problem for you, because it’s only a $28 problem for it.

The biggest lesson learned from these AWS outages is that you need to configure properly and you need to train your people. These types of events will always happen, and when they do, you need to be trained ahead of time. Load testing itself is a good way to validate and train. That way when a real emergency occurs, your team can react in a calm, collected manner to a situation they’ve experienced dozens of times before.

Read the original blog entry...

About Sven Hammar
Sven Hammar is Co-Founder and CEO of Apica. In 2005, he had the vision of starting a new SaaS company focused on application testing and performance. Today, that concept is Apica, the third IT company I’ve helped found in my career.

Before Apica, he co-founded and launched Celo Commuication, a security company built around PKI (e-ID) solutions. He served as CEO for three years and helped grow the company from five people to 85 people in two years. Right before co-founding Apica, he served as the Vice President of Marketing Bank and Finance at the security company Gemplus (GEMP).

Sven received his masters of science in industrial economics from the Institute of Technology (LitH) at Linköping University. When not working, you can find Sven golfing, working out, or with family and friends.

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Cloud Expo 2013 East Opening Keynote by IBM
In this Cloud Expo Keynote, Danny Sabbah, CTO & General Manager, Next Generation Platform, will detail the critical architectural considerations and success factors organizations must internalize to successfully implement, optimize and innovate using next generation architectures.
Lisa Larson, Vice President of Enterprise Cloud Solutions of Rackspace Hosting Live From New York City
In the old world of IT, if you didn't have hardware capacity or the budget to buy more, your project was dead in the water. Budget constraints can leave some of the best, most creative and most ingenious innovations on the cutting room floor. It's a true dilemma for developers and innovators – why spend the time creating, when a project could be abandoned in a blink? That was the old world. In the new world of IT, developers rule. They have access to resources they can spin up instantly. A hybrid cloud ignites innovation and empowers developers to focus on what they need. A hybrid cloud blends the best of all worlds, public cloud, private cloud and dedicated servers to fit the needs of developers and offer the ideal environment for each app and workload without the constraints of a one-size-fits-all cloud.

Keynote: Driving Cloud Innovation: SSDs Change Cloud Storage Paradigm
Cloud is a transformational shift in computing that can have a powerful effect on enterprise IT when designed correctly and used to its full potential. Join Citrix in a discussion that centers on building, connecting and empowering users with cloud services and hear examples of how enterprises are solving real-world business challenges with an architecture and solution purpose-built for the cloud.

Go Beyond IaaS to Deliver "Anything As a Service"
Many organizations want to expand upon the IaaS foundation to deliver cloud services in all forms—software, mobility, infrastructure and IT. Understanding the strategy, planning process and tools for this transformation will help catalyze changes in the way the business operates and deliver real value. Join us to learn about the new ITaaS model and how to begin the transformation.


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"At Harbinger we do products as well as services. Our services are with helping companies move their products to the cloud operating systems. Some of the challenges we have seen as far as cloud adoption goes are in the cloud security space," noted Shrikant Pattathil, Executive Vice President at Harbinger Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
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[June 11-14, 2012]

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There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Get a jump on that rapidly evolving trend at Big Data Expo, which we are introducing in June at
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@CloudExpo Blogs
Some of the network gear vendors cast a wary look at network management vendors, particularly those who do continual, automatic discovery of the network inventory and connectivity. Why? We know what’s actually out there, and what’s actually being used. We had one customer in the insurance industry who was due to renew their maintenance agreement with a large, well-known network gear vendor. The typical scenario was to be handed a spreadsheet by the salesperson, listing the serial numbers of the network devices they had purchased, together with a summary of maintenance charges.
Three technologies that will change the face of the world are realistic, present and growing. Revolutionary in nature, these technologies have not reached their pinnacle yet but are growing quite significantly. Predicted to become a $200 billion industry by 2020, the cloud is now reaching a stable stage of growth. As a cloud advocate I work within the industry and can comfortably say that everything about the cloud is growing at a significant pace. This includes smaller verticals and specializations within the cloud, not to mention Business Intelligence, analytics, and other cloud-powered pla...
Recent data breaches involved an unclassified computer network used by President Obama’s senior staff, prompting countermeasures by the administration and resulting in temporary system outages. Officials said the attack did not appear to be aimed at destruction of either data or hardware, or assuming control of other systems at the White House, which poses the question – what were the hackers looking for?
As we enter 2015, it is time to dust off the crystal ball once again for our annual predictions forecast. The parade of new technology innovations and breakthroughs is unfolding across many fronts. In some cases the convergence of technologies themselves provides the breakthrough. The cloud, Internet of Things, mobile platforms, social media, Big Data and analytics, vertical-specific marketplaces and even wearables all have a part to play to transform industry and society and shape the new global economy.
"Appcore has been around since January 2008. We exclusively built clouds for service providers. We've been working with CloudStack since about that same time and our software sits on top of CloudStack," stated Jeff Tegethoff, CEO of Appcore, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Risk management has been around for a long time. Financial managers run risk assessments for nearly all business models, and the idea of risk carries nearly as many definitions as the Internet. However, for IT managers and IT professionals, risk management still frequently takes a far lower priority that other operations and support activities.
adMarketplace captures and analyzes massive data to allow for efficient real-time bidding for traffic sources for online advertising and delivers rapid cost-per-click insights to advertisers. The next BriefingsDirect bid data trailblazer interview examines how New York-based adMarketplace, a search syndication advertising network, has met its daunting data-warehouse requirements. Learn here how adMarketplace captures and analyzes massive data to allow for efficient real-time bidding for traffic sources for online advertising. And we'll hear how the data-analysis infrastructure also delivers ...
Last week I was able to catch up with Chris Tranter, Technical Lead at Hallmark UK. Hallmark’s engineering team runs on tight deadlines, and like all popular websites, places a huge importance on customer experience. As you can imagine, their site has abnormal and inconsistent load times, especially through the holiday season. Ensuring a smooth, seamless experience without stalls, outages, or crashes is extremely important. It was great to see how AppDynamics APM can become a necessary solution on a developer’s toolkit.
Small data management solutions don’t work in our brave new Big Data world. Back in the small data days, we talked proudly about having gigabytes of structured data that had been carefully denormalized to reduce latency as much as possible. Today’s data is measured in petabytes, and it is dynamic, complex, and wildly varied in structure. Small data was a nicely planned garden, but Big Data is a jungle: rich with resources, abundant in growth, but also a bit overwhelming and easy to get lost in.
Jason Bloomberg, president of agile digital transformation analyst firm Intellyx, has surpassed one million page views on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, SOA World Magazine, and several others. His home page at SYS-CON can be found at JasonBloomberg.SYS-CON.com. Bloomberg is also a regular contributor to Forbes and Wired. He writes on a range of digital transformation, enterprise IT, and innovation topics.He is also a frequent conference speaker. His upcoming speaking engagements include: Does A...
A couple years ago I attended several "fast pitch" competitions and events for entrepreneurs in Southern California, all designed to give startups a chance to "pitch" their ideas in about 60 seconds to a panel of representatives from the local investment community. Similar to television's "Shark Tank," most of the ideas pitches were harshly critiqued, with the real intent of assisting participating entrepreneurs in developing a better story for approaching investors and markets.
SYS-CON Media announced today that Plutora launched a blog feed on DevOps Journal with over 3,500 story reads in less than a week. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done.
While news about the malicious hacking trade and the actions of elusive cyber-criminals continue to grab headlines, the third of our annual Insider Threat reports confirm that the risk posed by those legitimately ‘inside the fence’ continues to top business data security concerns. Of course, there can be no denying that the breadth and depth of private and public sector breaches in the past few years that have resulted from trusted insiders turning rogue or being compromised by perpetrators of APTs and the like indicates that there is a major disconnect when it comes to organisations’ handling...
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently identified four keys areas in which to focus for the next 15 years: Health, Farming, Banking, and Education. Bill himself holds forth on a regular basis about the challenges facing many billions of people in the world, particularly in Africa, as well as the opportunities to save lives and change lives. He does not seem naïve about the enormity of the challenges, and does not offer technology as a simple panacea to what ails the world. He also seems committed to respecting national sovereignty in implementing programs, difficult as that may be s...
In today’s highly connected world, the benefits and widespread adoption of cloud computing are not just limited to enterprises and government agencies; its transformative impact has prompted changes to a variety of businesses across several verticals – both big and small. In fact, a recent study by Emergent Research, ‘Small Business Success in the Cloud,’ found that the percentage of U.S. small businesses using cloud computing is expected to grow by more than half, from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent, by the year 2020.
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2011west.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcexpo
2011east.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2010west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualization
2010west.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2010.
sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcomputingexpo
2010east.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo East
virtualizationconference
2010east.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualizationconference
2009west.sys-con.com
    GovIT Expo
govitexpo.com
 
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2009.sys-con.com
 

Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty

S.F.S.
Dell

Singer
NRO

Pereyra
Oracle

Ryan
OpSource

Butte
PwC

Leone
Oracle

Riley
AWS

Varia
AWS

Lye
Oracle

O'Connor
AppZero

Crandell
RightScale

Nucci
Dell Boomi

Hillier
CiRBA

Morrison
Layer 7 Tech

Robbins
NYT

Schwarz
Oracle

What The Enterprise IT World Says About Cloud Expo
 
"We had extremely positive feedback from both customers and prospects that attended the show and saw live demos of NaviSite's enterprise cloud based services."
  –William Toll
Sr. Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
Navisite
 


 
"More and better leads than ever expected! I have 4-6 follow ups personally."
  –Richard Wellner
Chief Scientist
Univa UD
 


 
"Good crowd, good questions. The event looked very successful."
  –Simon Crosby
CTO
Citrix Systems
 


 
"It's the largest cloud computing conference I've ever seen."
  –David Linthicum
CTO
Brick Group