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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.

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@CloudExpo Blogs
As organizations try to increase their velocity and agility, there’s a widening gap between the IT department and the provisioning of new services. This can lead to serious security risks and operational inefficiency. But if we really want to tackle shadow IT, we have to get to the root of the problem. Why are people bypassing the IT department or failing to ask management for permission? What can we do about it?
A recent business conversation led to the establishment of the fact that the datacenter business is becoming much more cutthroat than ever. Price wars, advanced offerings, upsells and what not are the usual tactics that have been used, but now competing forces are pressuring data center providers to go beyond the usual and utilize something new. Data center businesses are now relying more and more on leveraging strategic footprints, global presence and larger capabilities to educate and work with customers at a local level. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 3 million data cent...
Digital transformation has increased the speed at which organizations must adapt. As they do so, it’s more important than ever to be able to choose solutions that will give them a comprehensive, real-time view of the network. Several factors contribute to this new priority: Root causes and threats must be quickly identified, so network and security ops personnel must have the ability to view and share real-time data from multiple network environments.
Performance is the elusive butterfly of API development. Everybody is intrigued with its beauty, yet few know how to capture it. In the old days, the approach of many shops to ensure a performant API was to create some code and then pass it over to the wall to QA to do load testing. Later some integration testing took place. As long as the API worked and it was met some marginal performance benchmarks, things were good. This worked well when a public, HTTP based API, consumed by a wide variety of distributed devices was more the exception than the rule. However, today APIs are a big deal a...
Once again, the boardroom is in a bitter battle over what edict its members will now levy on their hapless IT organization. On one hand, hybrid cloud is all the rage. Adopting this option promises all the cost savings of public cloud with the security and comfort of private cloud. This environment would not only check the box for meeting the cloud computing mandate, but also position the organization as innovative and industry-leading. Why wouldn’t a forward-leaning management team go all in with cloud?
2016 will be the year of the data lake. But I expect that much of 2016 data lake efforts will be focused on activities and projects that save the company more money. That is okay from a foundation perspective, but IT and Business will both miss the bigger opportunity to leverage the data lake (and its associated analytics) to make the company more money. This blog examines an approach that allows organizations to quickly achieve some “save me more money” cost benefits from their data lake without losing sight of the bigger “make me more money” payoff – by coupling the data lake with data scie...
The battle over bimodal IT is heating up. Now that there’s a reasonably broad consensus that Gartner’s advice about bimodal IT is deeply flawed – consensus everywhere except perhaps at Gartner – various ideas are springing up to fill the void. The bimodal problem, of course, is well understood. ‘Traditional’ or ‘slow’ IT uses hidebound, laborious processes that would only get in the way of ‘fast’ or ‘agile’ digital efforts. The result: incoherent IT strategies and shadow IT struggles that lead to dispersed, redundant, and risky technology choices across the organization. The battle, however,...
Microsoft pulls a fast one! Good showing Microsoft. Project Natick is Microsoft's R&D feasibility project to explore, manufacture and operate a underwater. Hey, you don't look for cooling water, if you can take the salt out. How is latency improved? drop the datacenter at the nearest ocean or lake. Energy efficiency is no brainer considering the environment the datacenter is in. Bring in 3D manufacturing and you can have a datacenter manufactured and deployed in no time at all, no need for expensive land acquisition, licenses, certificates etc.
The Net Neutrality fight has been all over the news this year with the latest installment on Net Neutrality coming in from T-Mobile. Private and public companies alike are tuned into to this continual saga to see how the eventual outcome will affect business and ultimately their online lives. But whether the FCC’s recent ruling on Net Neutrality stands the test of time or not, there is a new technology that will provide customers fast, reliable Internet services at much lower costs than private business lines.
This post is the second in a series based on a discussion with Marc Andreessen. The first was on: AI, Robotics, Jobs and Accelerating The Future Gourley: Can you provide more context on what kind of education and training? Andreessen: It is fair to say I am biased on that subject but my view is that the quantitative skills will be in greater demand: Math, Economics, Science, Engineering, Computer Science. The requirements for these are rising at much higher rates so their premium is rising. All of us should seek to self educate on these when we can and this is what we should encourage our yo...
Time for a blog about personal privacy, before we all have forgotten about the concept. The Circle is both the title of an 2009 album by Bon Jovi as a 2013 novel by Dave Eggers. A novel relevant for a cloud blog because it describes a future in which one company (the Circle) largely controls the nexus of information, social, mobile and cloud. The use of a novel as medium for the communication of ideas regarding business or politics is not new. Think of examples as “The Goal” (about manufacturing management), “The Phoenix Project” (about IT Management), “Animal Farm” (about politics) and of ...
The (re?)emergence of Microservices was especially prominent in this week’s news. What are they good for? do they make sense for your application? should you take the plunge? and what do Microservices mean for your DevOps and Continuous Delivery efforts? Continue reading for more on Microservices, containers, DevOps culture, and more top news from the past week. As always, stay tuned to all the news coming from@ElectricCloud on DevOps and Continuous Delivery throughout the week and retweet/favorite to get your favorite pieces featured in our weekly recap.
Earlier this week it was reported that researchers at Boston-based security company, Rapid7, identified several security flaws in an app connected to a new toy from Mattel's Fisher-Price brand. The news of the security vulnerability caught our attention for a few reasons: The name of the toy - Smart Toy Bear - is strangely close to the name of our company SmartBear Software. More importantly, the story caught our attention because the security vulnerability brought up an important reminder about the important issue of security in today's connected world
I sat down with Michael Rösch, COO of POOL4TOOL, to chat about cloud computing. With a lot of buzz about the impact of the cloud on business, it was a chance to get a perspective, as well as a few hints and tips, from someone who has been at the coalface of procurement cloud services for the past 15 years. Michael has been at POOL4TOOL since 2000, becoming COO in 2012, and has worked on projects with German giants like Behr, Hansgrohe, Heidelberger Printing Presses, Carl Zeiss and ThyssenKrupp Presta in that time.
The Federal Government’s “Cloud First” policy mandates that agencies take full advantage of cloud computing benefits to maximize capacity utilization, improve IT flexibility and responsiveness, and minimize cost. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a mandatory government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Advantages for business include being able to market to many federal agencies after a single FedRAMP review following the government’s “approve once...
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Past SYS-CON Events
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    Cloud Expo Europe
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    Cloud Expo West
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2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
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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
 
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Navisite
 


 
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Univa UD
 


 
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