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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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KENDRICK
Isomorphic

REEVES
Datical

WALLER-
STORFER

Dynatrace

CIOT
Progress

MOR
Cloudyn

LEFORT
BMC

ANDERSON
BMC

BRODY
Webair

NIELSEN
Redis Labs

SEHGAL
Tintri

MANN
Splunk

YOO
Fuze

COTY
Alert Logic

LANDA
Kintone

CHOQUETTE
RackN

MARTIN
Security

HURWITZ
Hurwitz & Assc.

Cloud Expo Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers Include

KOWALL
AppDynamics

VAN TUIN
Red Hat

DEMMER
Jut

COHEN
Netflix

MUCHANDI
Red Hat Inc

BORELLO
Sysdig

GILPIN
Conjur

KANADE
Harbinger
Systems

GORBACHEV
Systems
Services Inc.

SUSSMAN
Coalfire

KHAN
Solgeniakhela

CHOKSI
Harbinger
Systems

DE MENO
CommVault

BLOOMBERG
Intellyx

BUGWADIA
Nirmata

COTY
Alert Logic

FLETCHER
Alert Logic

CAUTHRON
NIMBOXX

LYNN
AgilData

WAGNER
Cloudyn

ANAND
Appocito

WEISS
Pythian

BRODY
Webair

JACKSON
Softlayer

DAVIDSON
Juniper

HOFFMAN
Pivotal

VERVAET
HGST

Murthy
CloudRaxak

FRANCISCO
Evolute

LETCHIN
Nexenta

SIMON
JFrog

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

WEISS
ProfitBricks

HOLT
IBM

HANNON
SoftLayer

GALLO
SoftLayer

SAYEGH
Codero

BIMMU
Clouber

SRINIVAS
IBM

CHAVAN
IBM

HEDGES
Clouddata

AHUJA
Cloud

MEINER
Oracle

SWARTZ
Ericsson
Cloud Expo New York All-Star Speakers Included

DE SOUZA
Cisco

POTTER
SafeLogic

ROBINSON
CompTIA

WARUSA
-WITHANA

WSO2 Inc

MEINER
Oracle

CHOU
Microsoft

HARRISON
Tufin

BRUNOZZI
VMware

KIM
MapR

KANE
Dyn

SICULAR
Basho

TURNER
Cloudian

KUMAR
Liaison

ADAMIAK
Liaison

KHAN
Solgenia

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

SUSSMAN
Coalfire

ISAACSON
RMS

LYNN
CodeFutures

HEABERLIN
Windstream

RAMA
MURTHY

Virtusa

BOSTOCK
IndependenceIT

DE MENO
CommVault

GRILLI
Adobe

WILLIAMS
Rancher Labs

CRISWELL
Alert Logic

COTY
Alert Logic

JACOBS
SingleHop

MARAVEI
Cisco

JACKSON
Softlayer

SINGH
IBM

HAZARD
Softlayer

GALLO
Softlayer

TAMASKAR
GENBAND

SUBRA
-MANIAN

Emcien

LEVESQUE
Windstream

IVANOV
StorPool

BLOOMBERG
Intellyx

BUDHANI
Soha

HATHAWAY
IBM Watson

TOLL
ProfitBricks

LANDRY
Microsoft

BEARFIELD
Blue Box

HERITAGE
Akana

PILUSO
SIASMSP

HOLT
IBM Cloudant

SHAN
CTS

PICCININNI
EMC

BRON-
GERSMA

Modulus

PAIGE
CenturyLink

SABHIKHI
Cognitive Scale

MILLS
Green House Data

KATZEN
CenturyLink

SLOPER
CenturyLink

SRINIVAS
EMC

TALREJA
Cisco

GORBACHEV
Systems Services Inc.

COLLISON
Apcera

PRABHU
OpenCrowd

LYNN
CodeFutures

SWARTZ
Ericsson

MOSHENKO
CoreOS

BERMINGHAM
SIOS

WILLIS
Stateless Networks

MURPHY
Gridstore

KHABE
Vicom

NIKOLOV
GetClouder

DIETZE
Windstream

DALRYMPLE
EnterpriseDB

MAZZUCCO
TierPoint

RIVERA
WHOA.com

HERITAGE
Akana

SEYMOUR
6fusion

GIANNETTO
Author

CARTER
IBM

ROGERS
Virtustream
Cloud Expo Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers

TESAR
Microsoft

MICKOS
HP

BHARGAVA
Intel

RILEY
Riverbed

DEVINE
IBM

ISAACSON
CodeFutures

LYNN
HP

HINKLE
Citrix

KHAN
Solgenia

SINGH
Bigdata

BEACH
SendGrid

BOSTOCK
IndependenceIT

DE SOUZA
Cisco

PATTATHIL
Harbinger

O'BRIEN
Aria Systems

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

BIANCO
Solgenia

PROCTOR
NuoDB

DUGGAL
EnterpriseWeb

TEGETHOFF
Appcore

BRUNOZZI
VMware

HICKENS
Parasoft

KLEBANOV
Cisco

PETERS
Esri

GOLDBERG
Vormetric

CUMBER-
LAND

Dimension

ROSENDAHL
Quantum

LOOMIS
Cloudant

BRUNO
StackIQ

HANNON
SoftLayer

JACKSON
SoftLayer

HOCH
Virtustream

KAPADIA
Seagate

PAQUIN
OnLive

TSAI
Innodisk

BARRALL
Connected Data

SHIAH
AgilePoint

SEGIL
Verizon

PODURI
Citrix

COWIE
Dyn

RITTEN-
HOUSE

Cisco

FALLOWS
Kaazing

THYKATTIL
TimeWarner

LEIDUCK
SAP

LYNN
HP

WAGSTAFF
BSQUARE

POLLACK
AOL

KAMARAJU
Vormetric

BARRY
Catbird

MENDEN-
HALL

SUPERNAP

SHAN
KEANE

PLESE
Verizon

BARNUM
Voxox

TURNER
Cloudian

CALDERON
Advanced Systems

AGARWAL
SOA Software

LEE
Quantum

OBEROI
Concurrent, Inc.

HATEM
Verizon

GALEY
Autodesk

CAUTHRON
NIMBOXX

BARSOUM
IBM

GORDON
1Plug

LEWIS
Verizon

YEO
OrionVM

NAKAGAWA
Transparent Cloud Computing

SHIBATA
Transparent Cloud Computing

NATH
GE

GOKCEN
GE

STOICA
Databricks

TANKEL
Pivotal Software

Testimonials
This week I had the pleasure of delivering the opening keynote at Cloud Expo New York. It was amazing to be back in the great city of New York with thousands of cloud enthusiasts eager to learn about the next step on their journey to embracing a cloud-first worldl."
@SteveMar_Msft
General Manager of Window Azure
 
How does Cloud Expo do it every year? Another INCREDIBLE show - our heads are spinning - so fun and informative."
@SOASoftwareInc
 
Thank you @ThingsExpo for such a great event. All of the people we met over the past three days makes us confident IoT has a bright future."
Yasser Khan
CEO of @Cnnct2me
 
One of the best conferences we have attended in a while. Great job, Cloud Expo team! Keep it going."

@Peak_Ten


Who Should Attend?
Senior Technologists including CIOs, CTOs & Vps of Technology, Chief Systems Engineers, IT Directors and Managers, Network and Storage Managers, Enterprise Architects, Communications and Networking Specialists, Directors of Infrastructure.

Business Executives including CEOs, CMOs, & CIOs , Presidents & SVPs, Directors of Business Development , Directors of IT Operations, Product and Purchasing Managers, IT Managers.

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@CloudExpo Blogs
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions within your organization.
This digest provides an overview of good resources that are well worth reading. We’ll be updating this page as new content becomes available, so I suggest you bookmark it. Also, expect more digests to come on different topics that make all of our IT-hearts go boom!
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.
This is an unusual blog for me. Usually I talk about how organizations can more effectively leverage data and analytics to power their business. However, as I conduct more Big Data Vision Workshops, I have come to realize that a big part of the success of these engagements is the ability to “listen and comprehend.” Here are some observations and tips for “listening and comprehending” more effectively. I’ve classified this as “facilitation” because I seek to “facilitate” a dialogue with the client where I can learn enough about the client’s business to help them build the right Big Data busine...
In the first part of this series, we discussed the evolution of Azure IaaS and role of Azure Resource Manager. The next installment of the series explains the key differences between Azure Service Management (ASM) and Azure Resource Management (ARM) models. We will also take a look at key concepts and terminology related to ARM. ASM or ARM? One of the key tenets of cloud, especially infrastructure services, is programmability. Almost every cloud provider exposes a set of APIs to manipulate the virtual infrastructure programmatically. Even before the Cloud Computing term became a buzzword, Am...
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
No modern enterprise stands alone; each is dependent upon a network of trading partners to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace. But in most cases, the lack of business to business (B2B) integration is holding back efforts to evolve into a true digital business. A high-performing supply chain is essentially a dynamic digital network, and every link in the supply chain is vital for business. But, remarkably, “over 50 percent of the information exchanged among business partners is still done so manually — not automatically — via email, phone calls and faxes.”1 Many enterprises are...
One of the many questions that companies face when introducing new enterprise systems either to provide new functionality or incorporate legacy systems from a merger or acquisition is "How do we identify and manage access rights?" Not only do new access approval processes need to be established, but a common platform to define and execute processes, reliably document approvals and provide users with an acceptable user experience is often not in place to handle the additional workload. Corporate IT is also faced with the challenge responding quickly to changes in access rules or approval chain...
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...
Web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting by reimagining positions across several dimensions. The unprecedented explosion of Big Data and cloud services is driving the development of new storage architectures to store the information produced by this web-scale trend. It is becoming increasingly clear that even a linear growth trajectory for storage is insufficient to deliver the quantity of storage needed for data produced by the Internet of Things. Current architectures have bottlenecks t...
Monitoring of Docker environments is challenging. Why? Because each container typically runs a single process, has its own environment, utilizes virtual networks, or has various methods of managing storage. Traditional monitoring solutions take metrics from each server and applications they run. These servers and applications running on them are typically very static, with very long uptimes. Docker deployments are different: a set of containers may run many applications, all sharing the resources of one or more underlying hosts. It's not uncommon for Docker servers to run thousands of short-te...
It's been a busy time for tech's ongoing infatuation with containers. Amazon just announced EC2 Container Registry to simply container management. The new Azure container service taps into Microsoft's partnership with Docker and Mesosphere. You know when there's a standard for containers on the table there's money on the table, too. Everyone is talking containers because they reduce a ton of development-related challenges and make it much easier to move across production and testing environments and clouds. Containers are the technology that, many believe, deliver on the long-promised port...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Today data has replaced money as the global currency for trade. “McKinsey estimates that about 75 percent of the value added by data flows on the Internet accrues to “traditional” industries, especially via increases in global growth, productivity, and employment. Furthermore, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that about 50 percent of all traded services are enabled by the technology sector, including by cross-border data flows.”

Modern organizations face great challenges as they embrace innovation and integrate new tools and services. They begin to mature and move away from the complacency of maintaining traditional technologies and systems that only solve individual, siloed problems and work “well enough.” In order to build...

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