Amazon, Amazon cloud disrupts the internet

Amazon, Amazon cloud disrupts the internet

The internet is now an essential household utility for many Americans, perhaps even in the same way as running water.

It turns out that the internet's pipes can spring a leak.

Two major outages at Amazon's cloud computing services have resulted in widespread disruptions at other online services over the past three weeks. In June, websites around the world were temporarily knocked offline when Fastly, a cloud computing service provider, dealt with service configuration issues.

The steady drumbeat of issues underscores that the internet, despite all it can do, is sometimes fragile.

It's expected to be like your power or your water, and sometimes go down, said Steve Moore, chief security strategist at the cybersecurity firm Exabeam.

The latest disruption occurred Wednesday when customers of websites like DoorDash and Hulu complained they couldn't connect. The problem was traced to Amazon Web Services, the most widely used cloud services company, which reported that outages in two of its 26 geographic regions were affecting services nationwide.

A similar disruption took place on Dec. 7, crippling video streams, halting internet-connected robot vacuum cleaners and even shutting down pet food dispensers in a series of reminders of how much life has moved online, especially during the Pandemic. AWS published an unusually detailed description of what went wrong, along with an apology.

The incidents have helped to explode the illusion, boosted by decades of steadily improving internet speed and reliability, that everyday consumers can rely on online services to be available without fail.

Robert Blumofe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Akamai Technologies, said it used to be that online video meant watching a low-res video for five minutes. The company sells security services as well as edge computing capabilities, a kind of distributed technology that doesn't rely on centralized data centers.

There is a strong expectation that you can watch an entire movie in high-res, according to Blumofe. There is a recency bias. He said that we remember the immediate and now more than we remember the way things were in the past, when outages were frequent.

Some Americans who enjoy reliable internet access may have become spoiled.

Experts in computer science and security said that interruptions don't really question the fundamental design of the internet, where one of the founding ideas was that a distributed system can most often stay functioning even if one piece goes down.

They said the problems are rooted in the uneven development of the internet, as certain data centers are more important than others, cloud businesses run by Amazon, Google and Microsoft are focusing more on power, and corporate customers of cloud services don't always want to pay extra for backup systems and staff.

Sean O Brien, a lecturer in cybersecurity at Yale Law School, said the outages call into question the wisdom of relying on big data centers.

He said that alternatives like peer-to- peer technology and edge computing may gain favor, because the cloud has never been sustainable and is merely a euphemism for concentrated network resources controlled by a centralized entity. He wrote last week that the big cloud providers amounted to a feudal system.

Cloud service providers make money by selling server space to other businesses on flexible terms and with expertise, reducing the need for companies to manage their own servers. AWS outage affected clients such as Apple in November 2020.

Vahid Behzadan, assistant professor of computer science at the University of New Haven, said that there are many points of failure that would affect the entire global experience of the internet.

Some of the failure points, such as the AWS us-east - 1 region, have become notorious among tech workers who share their experiences with outages on industry message boards.

The fact that we have had repeated outages in a short period is a cause for alarm, Behzadan said, noting that U.S. businesses have staked a lot on the assumption that cloud services are resilient.

He said that if outages become more common or publicly visible, corporate clients are likely to respond in kind by spending more money for backup systems to make sure they are resilient in case of a breakdown - having contracts with both Google and Amazon, for example. There is now a rekindled industry debate on whether to go multicloud, and companies are increasing their spending on edge computing tools, according to CNBC.

The internet will not die soon. But whatever won't kill the internet makes it stronger, Behzadan said.

Moore, from Exabeam, said that the tightening labor market nationwide could have an effect on cloud services and internet reliability, as an increase in churn reduces the experience level of the people in charge.

He said that we were coming off unprecedented times where people are incredibly stressed and the expectations for cloud infrastructure have been higher than ever. Organizations are playing catch-up.