Things Fall Apart: Amazon’s Epic Cloud Failure Reveals Shortsightedness by Some Other Well-Known Tech Companies

4/22/11Follow @curtwoodward

As this week’s massive failure of Amazon Web Services cloud-computing infrastructure continued to roil the Web today, a few things were sadly clear. Perhaps most striking of all: Major service providers and websites—companies with enough money and talent to avoid the problem—didn’t spend nearly enough energy planning for the inevitability of a breakdown.

Yes, it’s probably asking too much for many small startups to double up their cloud-computing spending to prepare for what has been, up to now, a very rare outage from one of the biggest players in IT infrastructure. But what about the service providers that harvest money from that long tail of little companies?

Exhibit A is San Francisco-based Heroku, the hugely popular development and hosting platform that relies on Amazon’s service. When Amazon went down, Heroku went with it—taking along more startups than it had to, if the middleman had hedged its bets more effectively. It’s possible that Heroku had plans to move in that direction eventually, but that obviously that hasn’t happened fast enough to avoid a devastating outage.

That’s not to excuse Amazon’s meltdown or spotty communication with affected parties, which has magnified the problem. But remember that Heroku is no scrappy little startup—the company was purchased just a few months ago by Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) for more than $200 million.

“For someone like Heroku, which literally hundreds of startups use—Heroku should start thinking about, ‘OK, what can we do to spread the risk?’” says entrepreneur Shyam Subramanyan, whose San Francisco Bay Area startup list.ly was shut down by the outage. “A lot of people are paying them money.”

Scott Sanchez from CloudNod.com pointed to Los Gatos, CA-based Netflix as a good example of a large company making sure it had redundant protection. “They’re charging half the world $9.95 a month. It’s important for them to stay available, and they invested in the proper architecture. And they didn’t have to point any fingers,” Sanchez says.

On the other side of the coin were companies like popular content-aggregation website Reddit, which was still in a bare-bones mode Friday afternoon because of Amazon’s cloud problems. Reddit, … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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