Outage at AWS? What Caused the Chaos and How Was it Resolved?

On 7th December 2021, an outage at AWS affected eastern US and impacted everything from airline reservations and car dealerships to Amazon’s own e-commerce operations.
outage at aws

Robotic vacuum cleaners halted in their tracks, doorbell cameras stopped watching for package thieves, Netflix and Disney movies got interrupted, and the associated press had trouble publishing the news. That’s how the outage in Amazon’s cloud computing network disrupted services at a wide range of US companies for hours. This has raised some questions about the vulnerability of the internet and its concentration in the hands of limited firms.

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But before we dive deeper into larger concepts, let’s understand how Amazon resolved this issue. The company limited its communications to terse technical explanations on an Amazon Web Services dashboard and a brief statement was delivered via Richard Rocha who acknowledged that the outage affected the company’s own warehouse and delivery operations. But, that said, he added how the company was “working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.” It didn’t immediately respond to further questions Wednesday.

Over the years, some cybersecurity experts have warned companies about the potentially ugly consequences of allowing only a handful of big tech companies to dominate key internet operations. Sean O’Brien, a visiting lecturer in cybersecurity at Yale Law School said, “The latest AWS outage is a prime example of the danger of centralized network infrastructure. Though most people browsing the internet or using an app don’t know it, Amazon is baked into most of the apps and websites they use each day.” He further added that it’s important to build a new network model that resembles the peer-to-peer roots of the early internet as big outages have already knocked huge swaths of the world offline.

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This tells us that companies do have options to split their services between different cloud providers. Although it can be complicated, but it can be worth trying to make sure they can move their services to a different region run by the same provider.

Talking about the outage that mostly affected Amazon’s “US East 1” region, Servaas Verbiest, a lead cloud evangelist at Sungard Availability Services said, “This means if you had critical systems only available in that region, you were in trouble. If you heavily embraced the AWS ecosystem and are locked into using solely their services and functions, you must ensure you balance your workloads between regions.”

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