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Amazon S3 Outage Casts Cloud on Cloud Computing

Amazon S3 storage-as-a-service reportedly failed for about three hours this morning, leaving business customers worldwide without access to their stored data -- and with lots of questions about their service.

On an S3 customer forum, users emailed frantically from about 5:00 a.m. Pacific time, asking for updates and information. One customer reported that it was the second major S3 outage they'd experienced in about a month. Several wrote of their concern over meeting requirements for their customers while the service was out. Many expressed fear of relying on Amazon S3 going forward.

At 9:09 a.m. Pacific time, an Amazon employee reported that the issue had been resolved, the system was recovering, and that there may be elevated error rates for some customers for awhile. She also stated that Amazon would notify customers about what had caused the problem as soon as possible.

This afternoon, an Amazon spokesperson forwarded the following email to Byte and Switch:

    One of our three geographic locations was unreachable for approximately two hours and was back to operating at over 99% of normal performance before 7 a.m. pst. We've been operating this service for two years and we're proud of our uptime track record. Any amount of downtime is unacceptable and we won't be satisfied until it's perfect. We've been communicating with our customers all morning via our support forums and will be providing additional information as soon as we have it.

The event raises questions about the effectiveness of "storage as a service," particularly since Amazon S3 publishes the following claim on its Website: "Reliable: Store data durably, with 99.99% availability. There can be no single points of failure. All failures must be tolerated or repaired by the system without any downtime."

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