Almost as galling as the Amazon Web Services outage itself is a the litany of blog posts, such as this one and this one, that place the blame not on AWS for having a long failure and not communicating with its customers about it, but on AWS customers for not being better prepared for an outage.
As Klint Finley points out in his article, everyone seems to be blaming the folks who ponied up money to host their websites/webapps on the Amazon data center cloud. Until the outage, I was not really aware of the ins and outs, workflow and configuration required to run something on Amazons infrastructure. I am small-scale, small potatoes mostly relying on free services which when the work is great, and when they don’t work, meh! I can take or leave them, my livelihood doesn’t depend on them (thank goodness). But for those who do depend on uptime and pay money for it, they need some greater level of understanding by their service provider.
Amazon doesn’t make things explicit enough to follow a best practice in configuring your website installation using their services. It appears some business had no outages (but didn’t follow best practices) and some folks did have long outages though they had set up everything ‘by the book’ following best practices. The service that lay at the center of the outage was called Relational Database Service (RDS) and Elastic Block Storage (EBS). Many websites use databases to hold contents of the website, collect data and transaction information, collect metadata about users likes/dislikes, etc. The Elastic Block Storage acts as the container for the data in the RDS. When your website goes down if you have things setup correctly things fail gracefully, you have duplicate RDS and EBS containers in the Amazon data center cloud that will take over and continue responding to people clicking on things and typing in information on your website instead of throwing up error messages or not responding at all (in a word it just magically continues working). However, if you don’t follow the “guidelines” as specified by Amazon, all bets are off you wasted money paying double for the more robust, fault tolerant failover service.
Most people don’t care about this especially if they weren’t affected by the outages. But the business owners who suffered and their customers who they are liable for definitely do. So if the entrepreneurial spirit bites you, and you’re very interested in online commerce always be aware. Nothing is free, and especially nothing is free even if you pay for it and don’t get what you paid for. I would hope a leading online commerce company like Amazon could do a better job and in future make good on its promises.