By now many of you know about the technical difficulties Amazon suffered with their Amazon Web Services platform last week. It might have even taken down one of your favorite sites if they include Reddit, Quora, and Foursquare just to name a few. Anytime something like this happens it immediately starts the conversation up about the viability of the cloud/distributed computing model. Let me first say that at this point it’s a ridiculous argument, platforms like AWS are the future..period.
Amazon as the service provider definitely deserves a lot of the blame. You can’t have a service that you tell people it’s a good idea to run their business on fail for the amount of time that it did. For their part I think they need to do a much better job of communicating to their customers how to put the awesome components that they offer together in a way that gives them a truly highly redundant and highly available system. I think in a move to attract more users Amazon may have oversimplified things a bit and they need to be clearer going forward. I would say they need to go as far as building in “connectors” if you will that allow people to integrate different AWS components more intuitively. At this point, Amazon has to stop feeding people somewhat of a false sense of security. Their customers tend to think since I run on the same infrastructure as Amazon I must be ok. The truth is that Amazon has hundreds of people around the world working 24 hours a day to make sure things work like they should.
From the customer perspective they need to become more knowledgeable on exactly how the components of AWS work and develop architectures accordingly. The kind of architecture that makes up AWS is still fairly new, even to the people and companies that run on it. While most of them won’t admit it, they probably don’t fully understand the actual complexity of the environment that they are actually a part of. People have their comfort zones and basically once you get your comfort zone up and running in AWS whether it be Linux or Oracle or whatever people tend to just focus in on that. I say that to mean people who build websites on AWS work on it once it’s set up the same way they would if it they had a hosting plan from GoDaddy or some other webhost. At that point for them at least it becomes all about whatever application they are managing or building. What they have to understand is that if you want to have enterprise reliability you have truly put time into creating enterprise architecture. When you are building a big business you don’t think you have redundancy and failover, YOU KNOW.
In the short-term this may hurt Amazon a bit but ultimately I think AWS is going to be thing that ultimately distinguishes them from companies like Google and Apple. From a business perspective, I can understand a lot of companies that rely heavily on AWS for their businesses, when your service provider goes down in this epic of a fashion it causes you downtime which cost you money. The thing that those companies and most people watching this from the outside have to remember is that if it wasn’t for AWS most of those companies wouldn’t be where they are today. AWS has allowed start-ups to not only enter markets but create entirely new ones. It used to be that you needed some serious capital to build out the infrastructure necessary to deliver enterprise level service and reliability. Today, through services like Amazon you could quite possibly pull that off with a few hundred bucks a month on your credit card. That is some game-changing stuff if you hadn’t noticed and can only bode well for consumers and those with an entrepreneurial spirit.