Robotic vacuum cleaners stopped moving in their tracks. Doorbell cameras stopped watching for package thieves, though some of those deliveries were canceled anyway. A major outage in Amazon's cloud computing network Tuesday severely disrupted services at a wide range of U.S. companies for hours, raising questions about the vulnerability of the internet and its concentration in the hands of a few firms.
Amazon hasn't said anything about what went wrong. The company limited its communication Tuesday to terse technical explanations on an Amazon Web Services dashboard and a brief statement from Richard Rocha, who acknowledged the outage had affected Amazon's warehouse and delivery operations, but said the company was working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. It didn't respond to further questions Wednesday.
The incident at Amazon Web Services impacted the eastern U.S. but still impacted everything from airline reservations and auto dealerships to payment apps and video streaming services to Amazon's massive e-commerce operation.
Amazon Web Services is a cloud-service operation that stores its customers' data, manages their online activities and more, and is a huge profit center for Amazon. According to a report by Synergy Research Group, it holds roughly a third of the $152 billion market for cloud services, a larger share than its closest rivals, Microsoft and Google.
It was formerly run by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who replaced founder Jeff Bezos in July.
For years, cybersecurity experts have warned about the possible consequences of allowing a handful of tech companies to dominate key internet operations.
Sean O Brien, a visiting professor at Yale Law School, said that the latest AWS outage is a prime example of the danger of centralized network infrastructure. Amazon is baked into most of the apps and websites they use on the internet, and most people don't know it, even though most people are browsing the internet or using an app don't know it. O Brien said it was important to develop a new network model that resembles the peer-to- peer roots of the early internet. Big outages have already knocked huge swaths of the world offline, as happened during an October Facebook incident.
Even under the current model, companies have options to split their services between different cloud providers, but it can be complicated, or at least make sure they can move their services to a different region run by the same provider. Tuesday s outage mostly affected Amazon's US East 1 region.
If you had critical systems only available in that region, you were in trouble, said Servaas Verbiest, lead cloud evangelist at Sungard Availability Services. If you heavily embraced the AWS ecosystem and are locked into using only their services and functions, you have to balance your workloads between regions. The last major AWS outage occurred in November 2020. There have been numerous other internet outages involving other providers. In June a content distributor Fastly suffered a failure that temporarily took down dozens of major internet sites including CNN, The New York Times and Britain's government home page. Another month affected provider Akamai during peak business hours in Asia in June.
In October, Facebook blamed a faulty configuration change for an hours long worldwide outage that took down Instagram and WhatsApp, which was now known as Meta Platforms.
It was not known how or whether Tuesday's outage affected governments, but many of them rely on Amazon and its rivals.
The Pentagon canceled a disputed cloud computing contract with Microsoft in July, which was the most influential organization to rethink its approach of relying on a single cloud provider. It will instead pursue a deal with Microsoft and Amazon and possibly other cloud service providers such as Google, Oracle and IBM.
The National Security Agency earlier this year awarded Amazon a contract with a potential estimated value of $10 billion to be the sole manager of the NSA's migration to cloud computing. Wild and Stormy is the agency code name of the contract. The General Accountability Office in October sustained a bid protest by Microsoft, finding that certain parts of the NSA's decision were unreasonable, although the full decision is classified.