A glitch at Amazon is causing numerous websites and apps that rely on the company's Amazon Web Services offering (AWS) to fail or deliver poor performance, especially for users on the East Coast of the United States.

AWS is one of the world's largest providers of cloud services, and its currently hiccupping Amazon Simple Storage Service (which launched about a decade ago and is commonly referred to as Amazon S3) is today used by numerous online businesses as part of their critical infrastructure. The outage is, therefore, affecting many companies, including Netflix, Time, Pinterest, Business Insider, and Airbnb. Furthermore, because content from many providers that use AWS is loaded onto pages outside of their own sites, the outage is also affecting sites that do not directly use AWS themselves.

Amazon has reported the issue on its AWS dashboard, stating, "We continue to experience high error rates with S3 in US-EAST-1, which is impacting various AWS services. We are working hard at repairing S3, believe we understand root cause, and are working on implementing what we believe will remediate the issue."

There is no indication from Amazon yet as to whether foul play may have played any role in today's outage. It is important to remember that technical glitches do occasionally happen, even in the most advanced environments, without anyone trying to inflict any harm.

Today's outage serves a reminder that while the cloud can provide great security, performance, financial, and convenience benefits, it also introduces a significant vulnerability--a failure at a single provider can cause major headaches for numerous parties. We are sure to see efforts made to prevent such failures in the future--but, as a society, we should expect that outages will happen periodically.

(The Amazon status message above has been updated since this article originally appeared to reflect that Amazon believes it has identified the root cause of the problem.)

Published on: Feb 28, 2017
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