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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 - Cloud Looms Large on SYS-CON.TV


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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Top Stories for Cloud Expo 2012 East

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New York City Expo Floor Plan Revealed
Cloud Expo New York
[June 11-14, 2012]

Floor Plan Revealed


Introducing Big Data Expo
Introducing
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
Cloud Expo New York.

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Testimonials
Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
AHMAR ABBAS
SVP, Global Infrastructure Management, CSS Corp.
 
With our launch at Cloud Expo, we successfully transformed the company from a relatively unknown European player into the dominant player in the market. Our competitors were taken by surprise and just blown away. We got a huge number of really high quality leads..."
PETE MALCOLM
CEO, Abiquo
 
We were extremely pleased with Cloud Expo this year - I’d say it exceeded expectations all around. This is the same info we got from partners who attended as well. Nice job!"
MARY BASS
Director of Marketing, UnivaUD
 
Cloud Expo helps focus the debate on the critical issues at hand in effect connecting main street with the next frontier."

GREG O’CONNOR
President & CEO, Appzero


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@CloudExpo Blogs
SYS-CON Events announced today that WHOA.com, an ISO 27001 Certified secure cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. WHOA.com is a leader in next-generation, ISO 27001 Certified secure cloud solutions. WHOA.com offers a comprehensive portfolio of best-in-class cloud services for business including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Secure Cloud Desktop, Cloud Storage, Disaster Recovery, Integrated Applications and Security.
Even though Apple and Microsoft haven’t commented on the new open source technology which delivers high quality audio and video capabilities to desktop and mobile browsers, major carriers such as AT&T and Telefónica, leading infrastructure providers like Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson and new WebRTC application providers in likes of Teledini and NetDev are driving the technology forward. Research analyst, Sabir Rafiq comments, “WebRTC brings many opportunities; ABI Research believes major trends will start to form within the enterprise market with WebRTC. Companies will be willing to implement t...
Developers working with WebRTC can now build native applications for Android, archive and playback live video communications within their application, and take advantage of a range of enterprise-grade quality-enhancing features, all thanks to four new developments from TokBox which launched today. OpenTok Archiving & Playback, released today into beta, allows developers to simply add video stream recording for their live video chat applications, save the conversation into a single H.264/AAC MP4 file, and download or stream it through the player of their choice. The Android SDK for WebRTC for...
Last week, a public company Informatica got acquired by two private equity funds – the Permira fund and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) for $5.3B. This is the biggest leveraged buyout so far this year. I am happy for my friend Sohaib Abbasi (we were colleagues at Oracle during the 1990s) who is CEO of Informatica after being a board member for a couple of years. During Sohaib’s time, the company entered into playing a bigger role in data archiving and life cycle management. It also made progress into offering cloud-based services.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the set of devices and systems that interconnect real world sensors and actuators to the internet. This includes many different types of systems. These systems connect to the internet or gateway in a variety of manners including long range WiFi/Ethernet using IP protocols (tcp/udp, including cellular), short range Bluetooth low energy, short range Near Field Communications, or other types of medium range radio networks. Point to point radio links and serial lines are also used. There are many sensors that connect directly to the internet and there are ot...
IDG Enterprise’s 2015 Big Data and Analytics survey shows that the number of organizations with deployed/implemented data-driven projects has increased by 125% over the past year. The momentum continues to build. Big Data as a concept is characterized by 3Vs: Volume, Velocity, and Variety. Big Data implies a huge amount of data. Due to the sheer size, Big Data tends to be clumsy. The dominating implementation solution is Hadoop, which is batch based. Not just a handful of companies in the market merely collect lots of data with noise blindly, but they don't know how to cleanse it, let alone...
Log data provides the most granular view into what is happening across your systems, applications, and end users. Logs can show you where the issues are in real-time, and provide a historical trending view over time. Logs give you the whole picture. Today, everything must be faster. Faster releases; faster and larger backlogs; faster complaints; faster bugs. The speed and performance of the modern software delivery pipeline brings a new set of challenges. How do you keep up? There really is only one option - automation and measurement. You need a method for automatically collecting data abou...
There's a real buzz about microservices and containers in the application development and DevOps communities, and of course these are topics we've been talking about a great deal lately here at XebiaLabs too. Microservices and containers offer many attractive features, not least the potential for enhanced flexibility, and a robust architecture based on best-fit services. What we at XebiaLabs are really interested in is how organizations can effectively deliver microservices-based apps to better serve their customers and users. As we break down monolithic applications and move complexity fro...
For most C-level executives (and most of the rest of the planet too), the concept of ‘risk’ is generally first perceived as a negative. The notion of risk as a business positive (or a ‘business enabler’ even) is fanciful, flaky and fraught with fallibility – isn’t it? This proposition is not as feeble as it sounds and there are a number of reasons why this is so. First, let’s be essentially mathematical about this for a minute. If John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, Adam Smith or (insert your favorite economics guru here) have taught us anything, it is that business should be about measure...
Articles about the IoT (Internet of Things) have moved from technical journals to our daily newspapers. They are a popular mainstream media topic today, but where are there actual business values found as a result of the IoT? In this article we will explore some of these topics. In the rugged blue collar environment, vehicles, high valued equipment and other assets can be connected to the IoT to wirelessly report on their status, hours of operation, location, environment, maintenance and repair needs. This data can alert management when there is a problem, event or automatically create se...
Community is an area of great interest to me. As the evangelist for VictorOps, I’m tapped with many challenges and responsibilities. Not only do I try to provide useful guidance and feedback regarding VictorOps and DevOps best practices, but also bring together customers and partners with shared interest and excitement for what we are building to make on-call suck less. If there is a group in which one could model how to build a great community after, it’s Chef and this year’s ChefConf is a testament to that.
One of the unintended consequences of cloud is the operational inconsistency it introduces. That inconsistency is introduced because cloud commoditizes the infrastructure we're used to having control over and visibility into. everything from the core network to the application services upon which business and operations relies to ensure performance, availability and security are often times obscured behind simplified services whose policies and configurations cannot be reconciled with those we maintain on-premise.
Today, the demand for new applications is growing at an unprecedented rate throughout lines of business and across industries. Customer expectations for mobile and e-commerce capabilities are transforming software development speed and quality into a competitive differentiator for even the most unlikely businesses. For existing software development shops, the proliferation of platforms, increasing need for total global uptime, and accelerating pace of industry disruption by fast-paced startups have all put increased pressure on development. In every vertical, more code must be shipped than eve...
2015 is the 10th birthday of Ruby on Rails (or simply called Rails), the popular open source web application framework that uses the Ruby programming language. Ever since Rails burst on the scene a decade ago it has continued to scale up as an elegant way to build dynamic websites quickly and efficiently. Rails has garnered a strong following, especially among tech startups. In fact, some of the best known firms out there are using the framework to build their sites. Examples of elegant sites built on Rails are Groupon, Airbnb, and Bloomberg.
In my younger days (we won’t discuss how long ago that was) I decided to take up sailing. I had always been fascinated watching sailboats, gliding smoothly along the water, with nothing but wind as their engine. My first lesson on the water was an exhilarating and eye opening experience. The instructor took me out on a 17-foot day sailer. It was a brisk New England April afternoon, what seemed like a perfect day to be sailing. The instructor explained the different techniques and maneuvers required to traverse the lake, which I executed, though somewhat nervously. We were moving at what felt l...
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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