No excuse: Storms should not take down your cloud

Power loss due to bad weather caused Amazon Web Services to fail a second time. Someone is falling down on the job

For the second time this month,'s Northern Virginia data center suffered an outage caused by a line of powerful thunderstorms coming through the area late Friday night. Disrupted services included Elastic Compute, Elastic Cache, Elastic MapReduce, and Relational Database Services. The outage has affected Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, and Heroku, used by many startups and mobile apps. (The previous Amazon Web Services outage in's northern Virginia facilities occurred on June 14.)

I live a few miles from the larger cloud computing data centers, and I can tell you it was a bad storm that knocked out power and cell service in the region. Many people in the area are still waiting for power to return, and I spent much of Sunday using my typically idle chainsaw to open roads and move larger branches out of the way of doors and off cars. (You gotta have something to do if the Internet is not working, right?)

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Despite the terrible weather, had no legitimate excuse for the outage. After all, most other cloud providers in the area were able to continue service. Powerful storms are not exactly an uncommon phenomenon in the mid-Atlantic region, so the data center should have been designed and run accordingly.

The people at any cloud provider need to drill fail-over scenarios and make sure the right mechanisms are in place for power loss and other normal consequences of weather, wherever they are located. The loss of power should never interrupt service.

I've often defended and other cloud providers that suffer outages from time to time. For the most part, their uptime records exceed that of many enterprise data centers. But these recent Amazon Web Services outages are unacceptable. We have the technology and capabilities to avoid loss of service -- with proper planning and investment in the appropriate technology.

At this point, I can only draw the miserable conclusion that the market leader in cloud services hasn't done either. Maybe customers should rely more on competing cloud platforms to reduce their risk.

This article, "No excuse: Storms should not take down your cloud," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.