Amazon Calms About What Caused Hours-Long Outage for Major Websites and Airlines

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Amazon Web Services experienced a major outage on Tuesday, disrupting a range of U.S. businesses, from streaming services to airlines for more than five hours.

Doug Madory, director of internet analytics at network intelligence firm Kentik Inc, said problems with the cloud computing network started mid-morning on the East Coast.

The reservation systems of Southwest and Delta airlines were affected, with Southwest switching to its west coast servers. Toyota also reported that more than 20 of its apps were affected. The blackout even spread to The Associated Press, leaving the news source’s publishing system down for most of the day.

Amazon’s statements about the outage were limited, with spokesman Richard Rocha saying only that the company’s warehouses and deliveries were also affected and the company “was working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

About five hours after the issues started showing up, an article on AWS’s status page said the company “mitigated” the issue that caused the outage. The company did not specify what the problem was.

According to DownDetector, a platform that provides users with real-time information about website outages, users of Instacart, Venmo, Kindle, Roku, McDonald’s, and Disney + have all reported issues.

Madory said the outage was most likely not caused by a hack.

“More and more, these outages end up being the product of the automation and centralization of administration,” he said. “This ends up leading to failures that are difficult to avoid completely due to operational complexity, but which have a huge impact when they do occur. “

Amazon Web Services experienced a major outage on Tuesday affecting businesses across the country. Above, attendees arrive during AWS re: Invent 2021, a conference hosted by Amazon Web Services, at the Venetian Las Vegas on November 30.
Photo by Noah Berger / Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services was previously headed by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, ​​who took over from founder Jeff Bezos in July. The cloud service operation is a huge profit center for Amazon. It has about a third of the $ 152 billion cloud services market, according to a Synergy Research report, a larger share than its closest rivals, Microsoft and Google, combined.

For public data access technologist and activist Carl Malamud, the AWS outage highlights how Big Tech has warped the Internet, which was originally conceived as a distributed, decentralized network meant to survive mass disasters such as a nuclear attack.

“When we put everything in one place, whether it’s Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we violate that fundamental principle,” said Malamud, who developed the first internet radio station and then put it online. a vital United States Securities and Exchange Commission database. “We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw it today with the failure of Amazon.”

Widespread and often lengthy breakdowns resulting from one-off failures seem increasingly common. In June, behind-the-scenes content distributor Fastly suffered a failure that briefly took down dozens of major websites, including CNN, the New York Times and the UK government’s homepage.

Then, in October, Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, blamed a “flawed configuration change” for a multi-hour global outage that took down Instagram and WhatsApp in addition to its titular platform.

It was not known how, or if, the blackout affected the federal government. The US Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security said in an email response to questions it was working with Amazon “to understand the potential impacts this outage could have on federal agencies or other partners.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amazon, Amazon spheres, Seattle
Amazon officials have yet to reveal what issue caused the major Amazon Web Services outage on Tuesday. Above, a pedestrian walks near the Amazon Spheres on the company’s corporate campus in downtown Seattle on December 7, 2021.
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo


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