Amazon has apologized to customers affected by last week’s EC2 outage and offered a detailed post mortem about exactly what went wrong. The short answer is that a network update shifted traffic to the wrong router, which then wrecked havoc on Amazon’s US East Region Availability Zone.
In addition to apologizing, Amazon is giving affected customers “a 10 day credit equal to 100 percent of their usage of EBS Volumes, EC2 Instances and RDS database instances that were running in the affected Availability Zone.”
Amazon is also promising to improve its communication with customers when things go wrong, but as we pointed out earlier, the real problem is not necessarily Amazon. While Amazon’s services unquestionably failed, those sites that had a true distributed system in place (e.g. Netflix, SmugMug, SimpleGeo) were not affected.
In the end it depends how you were using EC2. If you were simply using it as a scalable web hosting service, your site went down. If you were using EC2 as a platform to build your own cloud architecture, then your services did not go down. The later is a very complex thing to do, and it’s telling that the sites that survived unaffected were all large companies with entire engineering teams dedicated to creating reliable EC2-based systems.
That may be the real lesson of Amazon’s failure — EC2 is no substitute for quality engineers.
Amazon Web Services today launched a contest for developers building their web business off of services like EC2 and S3. The Startup Challenge will award one winner $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in AWS credits, plus potential investment from Amazon.
New startups are commonly using one or more of these web services available from Amazon:
SimpleDB is in beta and provides access to structured data.
In early October Amazon will pick five finalists in the contest, which the public can vote on. A panel of judges will determine the eventual winner. The contest application form is straightforward, with seven long form questions to answer, including the problem being addressed and target customers. Anyone with a qualified entry (I’m assuming this means a site that uses AWS services) receives $25 in AWS credits.
Need some inspiration? Amazon has a list of AWS case studies that show how sites are using their services.
EBS gives you persistent, high-performance, high-availability block-level storage which you can attach to a running instance of EC2. You can format it and mount it as a file system, or you can access the raw storage directly. You can, of course, host a database on an EBS volume.
While S3 is great for storage, EBS is more flexible with its uses. EBS is used in tandem with EC2 instances. But normally, when an EC2 instance goes away, its storage disappears, too. EBS is, as Amazon says, persistent. It sticks around.
The costs are similar to other Amazon Web Services, which charge by usage. Storage is 10 cents a GB per month. I/O requests are 10 cents per million. There’s a AWS calculator to help you figure out your own costs.