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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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Top Stories for Cloud Expo 2012 East

In this Big Data Power Panel at the 10th International Cloud Expo, moderated by Cloud Expo Conference Chair Jeremy Geelan, Govind Rangasamy, Director of Product Management at Eucalyptus Systems; Kevin Brown; CEO of Coraid, Inc.; Christos Tryfonas, CTO and Co-Founder of Cetas; and Max Riggsbee, CMO and VP of Products for WhipTail, discussed such topics as: Big Data has existed since the early days of computing; why, then, do you think there is such an industry buzz around it right now? How is Big Data impacting storage and networking architecture in data centers? How about the intersection of Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing - how big a sector is that and why? What's the difference between Big Data and Fast Data? ... (more)

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Introducing Big Data Expo
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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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AHMAR ABBAS
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@CloudExpo Blogs
A friend of mine's son recently returned from an extended absence which basically removed him from nearly all aspects of technology, including the Internet, for a bit longer than 5 years. Upon return, observing him restore his awareness of technologies and absorb all things new developed over the past 5 years was both exciting and moving. To be fair, the guy grew up in an Internet world, with access to online resources including Facebook, Twitter, and other social applications. The interesting part of his re-introduction to the "wired" world was watching the comprehension flashes he went t...
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of dysfunctional releases, release processes that are characterized by delay, inefficiency, and endless meetings that encourage people to view releases as a problem. These are the kinds of meetings that inspire references to the movie Office Space or emails that include clippings of the cartoon Dilbert - repetitive meetings to answer the same questions over and over again all because people lack the tools to connect the issue tracker with the change management systems. In organizations without a reliable process a release is also a time for production system o...
DevOps was created to reduce many of these same conflicts and while DevOps has had several high-profile successes it still presents a challenge for larger organizations. Large enterprises managing mission-critical systems still have separate silos for development and operations. In this post I discuss how DevOps fits into the enterprise and what release managers can do to adapt and extend DevOps to meet the challenges present in larger businesses. First, I’m going to define DevOps. Then I’m going to discuss the impedance mismatch between DevOps and a larger enterprise. In conclusion I’m going...
I attended a Meetup yesterday in Mountain View, hosted by The Hive group on the subject of Lambda Architecture. Since I had never heard about this new phrase, my curiosity took me there. There was a panel discussion and panelists came from Hortonworks, Cloudera, MapR, Teradata, etc. Lambda Architecture is a useful framework to think about designing big data applications. Nathan Marz designed this generic architecture addressing common requirements for big data based on his experience working on distributed data processing systems at Twitter. Some of the key requirements in building this archi...
Over the last couple of years I have talked to numerous enterprise customers, analysts, industry pundits, and others interested in cloud technologies, and one thing is abundantly clear – Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) seems to mean different things to different people. But the term PaaS is irrelevant – it's just noise. What is relevant, and what is important, is what PaaS does: enable applications. That's what enterprises care about. They want to accelerate application development to get products to market faster and into users' hands sooner.
Our guest on the podcast this week is Mark Thiele, EVP of Data Center Technology at Switch. We discuss the idea that private clouds are often equated with do-it-yourself and why that should be changed. Taking sure you are receiving the private environment you need at a cost that can support your business. Listen in to learn the different ways to own and manage a private cloud.
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. Containerization and micro-services are changing how development and operations teams design, build and monitor systems. Containerization of environments regularly results in systems with large numbers of dynamic and ephemeral instances that autoscale to meet demands on system load. In fact, it's not uncommon to see thousands of container instanc...
Every successful company hits growing pains at some point along the way. One of the most harrowing for IT is the transition from the “build it quick!” startup mindset to the more structured and stable mentality of a mid-stage business. For VIIAD Systems, a healthcare technology company that is reinventing how healthcare information flows, our transition from startup to mid-stage was marked by a transition from a physical, bare metal solution to a private cloud. We had been experiencing an almost overwhelming influx of business over the last two years, which was both a blessing and a challen...
RealTime Medicare Data analyzes huge volumes of Medicare data and provides analysis to their many customers on the caregiver side of the healthcare sector using HP Vertica. Here to explain how they manage such large data requirements for quality, speed, and volume, we're joined by Scott Hannon, CIO of RealTime Medicare Data and he's based in Birmingham, Alabama. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Creating global change that is actually good for the entire world is a mammoth task. With a population of almost 7 Billion people as of 2015, the planet is taking a toll with surviving the brunt of keeping the works going. What role can Cloud Computing play in making it easier for all of us?
Experts predict that the cloud computing will continue to grow this year. According to the Computerworld Forecast Study, spending on cloud computing is expected to rise by 42% in 2015. Moreover, Esna projects that in a bid to increase the use of mobile, social, customer-facing and collaboration technologies, 40% of IT teams will spend more on software as a service and a mix of public, private and hybrid solutions this year.
It is no surprise to anyone that service providers need to find new sources of revenue and increase profitability. The digital, cloud and as-a-service revolution provides a silver lining. As IT organizations feel the tension that comes from a combination of aging legacy B2B infrastructure, changing business mandates and rapidly evolving e-commerce requirements, they are increasingly looking at digital services and outsourcing to trusted providers. They want a trusted partner to deliver connected digital services; including mobile, cloud and M2M/IoT. The pressure is on for businesses to thin...
Over the last few years, Motus experienced a surge in business driven by its transformation to a mobile hub for their customers. As the company expanded their existing client footprint, they seized an opportunity to also integrate mobile workforce data with CRM, sales and expense management offerings. With the new business requirements, Motus knew they had to move from their legacy PHP single stack to a more nimble, service-based architecture to meet the demands of rapid development. As the new infrastructure development started, Motus' VP of Engineering Scott Rankin realized that Motus' ex...
Tunisie Electronique, a Tunisian IT services provider, improved their IT service management offerings and capabilities leveraging cloud-based services. To learn more about better IT control and efficiency using the latest ITSM tools and services, we are joined by Fadoua Ouerdiane, IT Projects Director at SMS and Tunisie Electronique in Tunis, Tunisia. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Application metrics, logs, and business KPIs are a goldmine. It’s easy to get started with the ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash and Kibana) – you can see lots of people coming up with impressive dashboards, in less than a day, with no previous experience. Going from proof-of-concept to production tends to be a bit more difficult, unfortunately, and it tends to gobble up our attention, time, and money. In his session at DevOps Summit, Otis Gospodnetić, co-author of Lucene in Action and founder of Sematext, will share the architecture and decisions behind Sematext’s services for handling larg...
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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