Amazon Web Services Hit By Power Outage

Outage affected companies relying on Amazon Web Services' U.S. East region.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

June 15, 2012

3 Min Read

Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality

Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality

Amazon's 7 Cloud Advantages: Hype Vs. Reality (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Amazon Web Services suffered a power outage in its Northern Virginia data center on Thursday evening, an event that disrupted service at several start-ups and Internet companies.

The Amazon Web Services Service Health Dashboard indicates that problems were first detected just before 9 p.m. PT on June 14. Affected services included Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, Amazon Relational Database Service, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk served out of Amazon's U.S. East region.

"We can confirm a portion of a single Availability Zone in the US-EAST-1 Region lost power," Amazon said in a dashboard status report. "We are actively restoring power to the effected EC2 instances and EBS volumes. We are continuing to see increased API errors. Customers might see increased errors trying to launch new instances in the Region."

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Amazon did not immediately respond to a request to provide information about the cause of the power outage.

Last August, a lightning strike in Dublin, Ireland, disrupted service at AWS's European zone data center. The lightning caused a transformer explosion at Amazon's electricity supplier and also knocked out Amazon's backup generators.

In April last year, an outage in Amazon's U.S. East region triggered what Amazon described as "a re-mirroring storm," in which the sudden loss of access to data prompted automated systems to try to duplicate data in a way that jammed network data traffic.

Heroku, Parse, Pinterest, and Quora were among the companies affected by the Thursday evening power outage. Heroku's incident report shows the disruption lasting eight hours, though most service appears to have been restored in two hours.

Amazon's Service Level agreement offers affected customers a service credit equal to 10% of their bill if the Annual Uptime Percentage for the customer drops below 99.95% over the service year. However, the SLA excludes events "caused by factors outside of our reasonable control," among other things. So a power failure unrelated to AWS equipment would not be covered.

On Twitter, Amazon's competitors like Rackspace and Joyent took the opportunity to remind tweet-stream readers of cloud hosting alternatives. And developer Drew Tempelmeyer, making reference to the AWS price reduction earlier this week, quipped about AWS, "We've lowered prices and availability."

Even if service problems invite sarcasm and customer solicitation, AWS isn't hurting for business. Last week, AWS evangelist Jeff Barr noted that Amazon S3 is now storing over one trillion objects.

On Thursday, AWS announced a new free support plan, a service optimization assistant called Trusted Advisor, and chat support, among other things.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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