Amazon’s Service Outtage

As some of you are likely aware, Amazon is currently experiencing a significant outage in several of its services includes EC2, EBS, and beanstalk. Is this a strike against cloud computing? Or a cautionary tale against making assumptions about a cloud provider’s SLA and your own lack of backup/recovery plans?

While cloud detractors are raising this as a prime example of why the cloud isn’t ready for the enterprise, the real truth here is that this outage is a great example of what happens when you put all your faith in a provider and don’t plan propely. While your provide may be giving you a financially backed SLA… Is being paid back $2,000 for SLA violations acceptable if you’re losing $10,000 an hour due to down services?

Many of the sites/services that are experiencing downtime today were hosted solely at Amazon’s Virginia data center and didn’t have disaster recovery or failover plans. One high profile client (I don’t have permissions to I won’t name names) isn’t having the same issue because they were prepared, they followed Amazon’s published guidance to have redundant copies of their services sitting ready in other facilities to take the load should something happen.

Does this mean you’re doubling your costs? Probably not, as you can (and likely should) have those secondary service sites set up at reduced capacity but prepared to quickly expand/scale to handle load. Its ultimately up to your organization to determine, much like purchasing insurance, how much coverage you need and how quickly they need to be able to adjust. And its precisely this ability to keep it small and scale it up when needed that is one of the cost benefits to the cloud. So you could potentially argue that this model is even supporting the whole argument for cloud computing.

As cloud evangelists and supporters, its counseling potential adopters on issues like these that will help us win their confidence when it comes to cloud computing. Even just raising the potential risk can get them to stop looking at us as someone with a sales pitch, and instead view us as an informed partner that wants to help them be successful in this new world. Regardless of which platform they are considering, they need to fully understand what SLA’s mean but more importantly know what the impact is to their business if the vendor violates the SLA, be it for a minute, an hour, or days on end.