For L.A.-based IaaS Leader, Moral is Simple: Bigger is Not Necessarily Safer
LOS ANGELES (March 6, 2017) – When an errant keystroke from an Amazon Web Services (AWS) engineer took down the world’s largest public cloud for five hours on Feb. 28, the glitch exposed a fundamental truth: the bigger you are, the harder you fall.
So says Adam Stern, the CEO of leading Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider Infinitely Virtual – and unfortunately, Stern notes, AWS fell on the mighty and the masses alike. With an estimated one-third of all Internet traffic passing through AWS servers, sites from Slack to Quora to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission were out of commission for much of prime time on Tuesday.
According to Gizmodo, “in theory, a series of fail-safes should keep the fallout from such errors localized, but Amazon says that some of the key systems involved hadn’t been fully restarted in many years and ‘took longer than expected’ to come back online. Amazon says that its S3 service is ‘designed to deliver 99.999999999 percent durability’ and ‘99.99 percent availability of objects over a given year.’ But when one piece of the infrastructure fails, AWS fails big.” And that, says, Stern, makes Amazon “a giant dust cloud.”
Where mega providers are concerned, he suggests, “no one knows what’s under the covers. People assume Amazon — and Microsoft and IBM, for that matter — are doing things the right way, but the lack of transparency is precisely the problem. Amazon hadn’t rebooted its systems in years? Does that make sense?
“AWS could have put customers in separate silos, but opted for one big pool, in that geography,” Stern notes. “Mega providers go out of their way to use homegrown products, the design of which remain trade secrets, and any efficiency gains they achieve can be undone by an absurdly minor human error. Bottom line: just because Amazon and Microsoft are big doesn’t mean they’re safe.” Amazon’s share of the public cloud market currently stands at 31 percent, with Microsoft at 9 percent and growing rapidly, and IBM SoftLayer at 7 percent.
“It matters what products and architecture a provider chooses,” Stern says. “Smaller companies are much more transparent, much more open to demonstrating to customers that they’re in a safe place. Some AWS users now want to know how to use Amazon to protect themselves from Amazon’s failures. It’s crazy.
“Fact is, multiple geographies need multi-provider redundancy,” he says. “Where was AWS disaster recovery? It’s not a rhetorical question. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandates that businesses understand risk – like online outages — and take steps to ensure business continuity. In my view, the lesson here is that the biggest players in the game need to clear the air, get out from under that dust cloud and model both transparency and accountability.”
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