Amazon issue wreaks havoc on many sites

April 22, 2011 Off By Hoofer
Grazed from Press Enterprise.  Author: Peter Svensonn.

Major websites including Foursquare and Reddit crashed or suffered slowdowns Thursday after technical problems rattled Amazon.com’s widely used Web servers, frustrating millions of people who couldn’t access their favorite sites.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has billed its cloud-computing services as a cheap and safe way for businesses to outsource their data centers. The outage is evidence that companies can’t wholly rely on cloud services to handle important functions, said Vanessa Alvarez, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

"Customers need to start asking tough questions and not assume everything will be taken care of in the cloud, because it will not," Alvarez said. "They shouldn’t be counting on a cloud service provider like Amazon to provide disaster recovery."

HootSuite, which lets users monitor Twitter and other social networks more easily, was down completely, as was questions and answers site Quora.

The location-sharing social network Foursquare experienced glitches, while the news-sharing site Reddit was in "emergency read-only mode."

Many other companies that use Amazon Web Services, such as Netflix Inc. and Zynga Inc., which runs Facebook games, appeared to be unscathed. Amazon has at least one other major data center that stayed up, in California.

It’s not uncommon for Internet services to become inaccessible due to technical problems, sometimes for hours or even days.

But Thursday’s outages were notable because Amazon’s servers are so commonly used, meaning many sites went down at once.