Public, Private or Hybrid Cloud After Amazon S3 Outage?

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On February 28th, the world witnessed another public cloud outage. The disruption happened in Amazon’s Northern Virginia data center and Amazon was prompt in communicating to customers.

It took several hours for Amazon to recover from the issue. Amazon has since worked on root cause analysis and as per their official release the issue was caused due to to a manual error in one of their systems management tools :

“Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.”

Amazon has committed to making several changes to ensure such outages don’t happen in future. As per their notice, they have modified their systems management tools to handle server capacity in more controlled way by adding checks and balances so that typo errors don’t result in automatic server removal. Amazon is also going to make changes to  improve the recovery time of key S3 subsystems.

Public Cloud or Not?

After the recent S3 outage, customers might be evaluating the pros and cons of hosting their applications including websites on public cloud. Downtime happens in both private and public cloud however with the latter, the overall impact is greater as there is more than one company affected when public cloud systems go down. And there is very little that corporations can do except expecting a fast response and fix from their public cloud provider. In the case of Amazon’s outage, companies such as Slack, Quora and others were impacted.

Downtime in private cloud needs to be handled by corporate IT groups often working with their vendors and recovery hugely depends on the internal IT skills employed by the company. However the company does have more control and depending on how much they have invested in disaster recovery, they might be able to recover fast from failure. In the public cloud, providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) employ hundreds if not thousands of professionals and have advanced technology for higher uptime and site reliability. This is attractive to their customers who have trusted and moved applications from their private cloud to the public cloud. In the private cloud you have greater control of your destiny; in the public cloud you have the assurance of your issue being handled by experts.

As public cloud is still evolving, issues like these are likely to happen with all major providers specially if it can happen to Amazon which has been the leader of the pack as per Gartner. One of the options that IT departments have is to adopt a Hybrid Cloud model in which even if the public cloud goes down, they can serve their customers through their own or collocated data centers such as Rackspace.

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