Don't just blame the cloud for the Amazon Web Services outage

No technology or vendor is perfect, but the promise of the cloud is too great to abandon

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Embracing the cloud in general means doing your homework, assessing risks (how much downtime can you tolerate each year?), and finding the service provider that best suits your organization's specific needs. For complex or mission-critical deployment, it could also mean having system admins on staff who know how to architect and oversee a resilient cloud-based system. Putting all of your eggs in any one basket is a recipe for unwanted omelets.

Or to put it in the words of techies from Netflix commenting on the previous AWS outage: "Netflix made the decision to move from the data center to the cloud several years ago. While it's easy and common to blame the cloud for outages because it's outside of our control, we found that our overall availability over the past several years has steadily improved. When we dig into the root-causes of our biggest outages, we find that we can typically put in resiliency patterns to mitigate service disruption."

AWS, too, is taking shots for this latest outage -- understandably so. As noted, this is the third time this year that company has experienced a high-profile outage. That's enough to get customers to peruse their AWS SLAs to see if Amazon has delivered the level of uptime it's promised. Additionally, it's not far-fetched too speculate that something's amiss in the Northern Virginia facility, which the company needs to address stat.

The good news is that customers have choices. If you're an AWS user who has suffered more downtime than you can handle, you might consider forking over more cash to Amazon for multiregion redundancy (balanced loads on the East and West Coasts), not to be confused with multi-availability zones, which spreads loads across zones in a specific region (for example, all on the East Coast).

Making sure you or your key IT staffers are well-trained in all things AWS doesn't hurt either. Amazon has noted during this latest round of outages that customers who have architected their systems according to AWS's best practices of spreading workloads were less likely to have experienced issues.

It's also plausible that AWS isn't a good fit for your organization. Maybe you need more functionality or a higher uptime guarantee. Or maybe you've given AWS every opportunity to meet your needs, and the company has come up short. There are other fish in the cloud, as it were, including Google, Microsoft, and Rackspace -- and more to come. What's more, cloud-platform vendors like Rackspace, Oracle, and Red Hat are steadily rolling out wares to help companies create and host their own private (or hybrid) clouds. That growing competition should keep the folks at AWS on their toes and actively working to improve their service to make it as appealing and reliable as possible.

The bottom line is that the cloud is a game changer, and companies large and small are enjoying huge benefits from its affordable flexibility. However, it never has been and never will been a simple prescription for any and all IT headaches. Improperly implemented, it can create a security or performance nightmare. Amazon certainly has some 'splainin' and reassuring to do if it wants to maintain its reputation as a cloud leader. Amazon's competitors have a chance to convince skeptics that they can do what Amazon does, only better. But organizations ultimately have to accept some responsibility for cloud snafus if they're embracing the platform without due diligence.

This story, "Don't just blame the cloud for the Amazon Web Services outage," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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