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Lessons Learned from the Amazon Web Services Outage
The only surprising thing about this AWS outage was that anyone was surprised by it

On Monday, Amazon Web Services — the leading provider of cloud services — suffered an outage, and as a result, a long list of well-known and popular websites went dark. According to Amazon’s Service Health Dashboard, the outage started out as degraded performance of a small number of Elastic Bloc Store (EBS) storage units in the US-EAST-1 Region, then evolved to include problems with the Relational Database Service and Elastic Beanstalk as well.

AWS outage takes down Reddit

WEBSITE DOWN: AWS outage takes down Reddit and other popular sites

The only surprising thing about this AWS outage was that anyone was surprised by it. It wasn’t the first time AWS had a major outage or problems with this data center. If you remember, back in June a line of powerful thunderstorms knocked the power out at a major Amazon hosting center. The backup generator failed, then the software failed, and, well, you know the drill. A corollary of Murphy’s Law is that if multiple things can go wrong, they will all go wrong at once.

In both of these instances (and in all Amazon Web Services outages, in fact) some customers were knocked “off the air” while others continued running without a hiccup. You would think that eventually companies will learn to anticipate the inevitable AWS outages and take active steps to prepare for them. There are best practices and solutions on how to reduce vulnerability to an outage, but they’re rarely implemented. That’s because people don’t think that anything could happen to Amazon — obviously, things happen.

Instances like this are a learning opportunity if we take the time to think about why they happened and what could have been done to prevent them. Here are six lessons that I think we can learn from the Amazon Web Services outages.

Lesson 1 — Clouds are made of components that can fail. When people think of the cloud, they think that there is some amorphous and untouchable blog up in the sky. And while that’s a nice bit of marketing, it is not a useful model for operational planning. Be mindful of your cloud provider’s architecture and how it is built to manage failure of a component or a zone blackout. Then anticipate that failures can happen at any point in the cloud infrastructure.

Lesson 2 — The stress of failure will trigger a cascade of other failures. After reading a description of the outage, you get the sense that it was just one thing after another. What started as a small issue affecting one Northern Virginia data center quickly spread, causing a chain reaction and outage that disrupted much of the Internet for several hours. Remember Murphy and his law?

Lesson 3 – -Spikes matter. When a cloud fails, hundreds of customers are impacted. As they try to recover, they will be stressing the cloud provider’s infrastructure with a peak load that is guaranteed to cause even more problems. If you get these transition spikes, they get worse and worse. Every time you reboot, it takes longer and longer. If you have ten servers doing that, that’s bad. If you spike a thousand servers, that’s really bad. Something that would have taken five minutes to fix will now take five hours when you get into that transition type of syndrome.

Lesson 4 — Cloud providers provide the tools to manage failure, but it is up to you to put your own failover plans in place. AWS, for example, is broken into zones. If a component in the Virginia zone goes down and the whole matrix is dead, then (in theory) you should be able to move all your data to another zone. That other zone might be hosted, unaffected, in Ireland and then you are up and running again. This is one of the big differences between the cloud and more traditional approaches to IT. It is up to the application (and by extension, the application’s designer) to manage its interaction with the cloud environment, up to and including failover. Most cloud providers offer tools and frameworks to support failover, but you are responsible for implementing that best practice into your system operation and into the applications.

Lesson 5 — You need to put your failover plans through a full-blown load test. It’s not enough to have a strategy in place for failover. You have to test it under real-world conditions. Even the best laid failover plans, once implemented and designed, might have hiccups when a real outage occurs. A full-blown cloud load test can help you see how long the failover process will take to kick in and what other dependencies might need to be sorted out. Obviously this isn’t easy. If it was, Reddit, Foursquare, Airbnb and others wouldn’t have been impacted by the AWS outage.

Lesson 6 — Conduct fire drills. While a load test will confirm that your failover plan works as you expect, it will also give your team some real experience in executing the plan. Remember the fire drills you used to do in school? Fire drills help train students, teachers, and others to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to go in the event of an emergency. All the bugs in the process are worked out during the fire drill, and the more everybody does the drills, the more comfortable there are with what they need to do. And if a real emergency happens, everybody knows how to leave the building calmly. You want to do the same thing with your failover plan, and load testing can help you get there. Fire drills save lives and load tests save cloud apps.

Is your failure worth more than $28?

Amazon offers reimbursement to its customers based on the amount of downtime the customer experiences. The last time our Amazon Web Services went down, we got a $28 reimbursement. So my final lesson learned (I guess this makes for seven lessons) is this: The cost of downtime for your organization — in lost revenue, poor customer experience, etc. — is far, far greater than just what you are paying your cloud provider. $28 is not going to save your day. You have to make sure that you have a failover solution that’s ready and working. Don’t wait for Amazon to solve this problem for you, because it’s only a $28 problem for it.

The biggest lesson learned from these AWS outages is that you need to configure properly and you need to train your people. These types of events will always happen, and when they do, you need to be trained ahead of time. Load testing itself is a good way to validate and train. That way when a real emergency occurs, your team can react in a calm, collected manner to a situation they’ve experienced dozens of times before.

Read the original blog entry...

About Sven Hammar
Sven Hammar is Co-Founder and CEO of Apica. In 2005, he had the vision of starting a new SaaS company focused on application testing and performance. Today, that concept is Apica, the third IT company I’ve helped found in my career.

Before Apica, he co-founded and launched Celo Commuication, a security company built around PKI (e-ID) solutions. He served as CEO for three years and helped grow the company from five people to 85 people in two years. Right before co-founding Apica, he served as the Vice President of Marketing Bank and Finance at the security company Gemplus (GEMP).

Sven received his masters of science in industrial economics from the Institute of Technology (LitH) at Linköping University. When not working, you can find Sven golfing, working out, or with family and friends.

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SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device.

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@CloudExpo Blogs
This is part one of a two-part series of posts about using some common server storage I/O benchmark tools and workload scripts. View part II here which includes the workload scripts and where to view sample results. There are various tools and workloads for server I/O benchmark testing, validation and exercising different storage devices (or systems and appliances) such as Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) flash Solid State Devices (SSDs) or Hard Disk Drives (HDD) among others.
Cloud computing has taken over the business world! With almost maniacal focus, single proprietors and Board Directors of the world's largest conglomerates see this new model as a "must do". This rapid shift is, in fact, accelerating. As Jeff Bertolucci observes in "The Shift to Cloud Services Is Happening Faster Than Expected": "According to the sixth annual Uptime Institute Data Center Industry Survey, which examines the big-picture trends shaping IT infrastructure delivery and strategy, the move to cloud services is accelerating. The Uptime Institute's February 2016 poll of more than 1,00...
Enterprises and service providers are moving to cloud. Cloud providers are expanding their infrastructure, reach and ease of adoption. Users are becoming mobile, they access their information and services on their personal mobile devices first. We have seen game changers like Netflix and AirBnB become vastly successful by using the power of public cloud as their infrastructure of choice. Service providers like Microsoft, Adobe and Oracle are quickly moving their services to cloud, offering them as a SaaS subscription. So why are we seeing this new "app store" model of development, deliver...
The age of computers is over. You are now living in the age of intelligent processing by just about everything else. Like vacuum tubes and tape drives, desktops and laptops are on their way to becoming odd relics of a distant age, if people remember them at all. That may sound a bit extreme, but the fact is that applications are not married to any technological substrate, not even the most advanced mobile devices. That is why smart developers have already turned their attention to using JavaScript for building out next-generation technology like drone controllers, big data management tools, an...
When the Internet of Things (IoT) started to emerge as a popular topic, I had to stop and ask myself if I was once again going to provide commentary on this emerging field. I enjoy exploring new technology shifts and illustrating how they can benefit various industries and businesses. It’s what I’ve done for the past 20 years through Java, XML, Web Services, SOA, Cloud and DevOps. However, every time I started writing on IoT I seemed to run into the same conundrum; am I commenting on this to jump on the hype bandwagon or because I see a need to represent the pragmatics of implementing and adop...
After many years of research, misfires and frightening Hollywood plotlines, artificial intelligence (AI) is finally coming into its own and beginning to demonstrate significant business value. The combined forces of big data, human expertise and AI are being used across industries as diverse as healthcare and manufacturing, as well as within all aspects of business. IT operations is one area that AI is beginning to contribute to enormously. IT infrastructures are changing rapidly today, particularly hybrid cloud environments. While they are increasingly dynamic and agile, they are also ext...
I’ve heard several clients complain about the curse of “orphaned analytics”; which are one-off analytics developed to address a specific business need but never “operationalized” or packaged for re-use across the organization. Unfortunately, many analytic organizations lack a framework for ensuring that the analytics are not being developed in a void. Organizations lack an overarching model to ensure that the resulting analytics and associated organizational intellectual capital can be captured and re-used across multiple use cases.

The post Jul. 28, 2016 08:00 AM EDT  Reads: 347

Thomas Bitman of Gartner wrote a blog post last year about why OpenStack projects fail. In that article, he outlined three particular metrics which together cause 60% of OpenStack projects to fall short of expectations: Wrong people (31% of failures): a successful cloud needs commitment both from the operations team as well as from "anchor" tenants. Wrong processes (19% of failures): a successful cloud automates across silos in the software development lifecycle, not just within silos.
Big Data. Analytics. Internet of Things. Cloud. In the last few years, you cannot have a discussion around technology without those terms entering the conversation. They have been major technology disruptors impacting all aspects of the business. Change seems to occur at breakneck speeds and shows no sign of slowing. Today, it appears the one constant in technology is change. Constant change requires constant innovation which thereby introduces more new technologies. One of the new technologies entering the conversation is machine learning. Gartner identified machine learning as one of the top...
Data is an unusual currency. Most currencies exhibit a one-to-one transactional relationship. For example, the quantifiable value of a dollar is considered to be finite – it can only be used to buy one item or service at a time, or a person can only do one paid job at a time. But measuring the value of data is not constrained by those transactional limitations. In fact, data currency exhibits a network effect, where data can be used at the same time across multiple use cases thereby increasing its value to the organization. This makes data a powerful currency in which to invest.
It seems like every day we see reminders of the importance of thorough security testing from all areas of the software world. Security has become an especially critical consideration for APIs in recent years. Organizations rely on APIs to share and receive information - either from a third party or between internal applications - so the level of security between these applications is critical for anyone who uses them.
Digital transformation typically begins as low cost POCs (proof of concepts), that evolve into mission critical corporate initiatives as positive results, consumer demands and market trends converge. Digital transformation becomes mission critical when consumers vote with their money to accept the digital replacements for physical products, services and processes.
Competitors can't compete, and leaders can't lead if they don't know the rules of the game. Understanding how points are scored, and what is required to win is key to any competition. In the age of digital transformation there are key rules to learn: Data is the modern commercial battlefield Information dominance is the strategic goal
Companies are exploiting technology advances in procurement and finance services to produce new types of productivity benefits. We'll now hear from a procurement expert on how companies can better manage their finances and have tighter control over procurement processes and their supply chain networks. This business process innovation exchange comes to you in conjunction with the Tradeshift Innovation Day held in New York on June 22, 2016.
If you are within a stones throw of the DevOps marketplace you have undoubtably noticed the growing trend in Microservices. Whether you have been staying up to date with the latest articles and blogs or you just read the definition for the first time, these 5 Microservices Resources You Need In Your Life will guide you through the ins and outs of Microservices in today’s world.