Amazon's Cloud Fails Yet Again, Taking Down Netflix

Categories: Tech

Forget Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' clumsy public utterances, which turned so many of his customers against the company. And forget the modest price increase that sent even more of them in the direction of competitors or even pirate sites. Hastings' biggest mistake might turn out to be signing on 100 percent with Amazon Web Services, which doesn't seem to be up to the task.

The Netflix outage on Christmas Eve is just the latest in a long series of outages that have screwed over many of Amazon's cloud customers, big and small. It seems to happen every few months. Nevertheless, Netflix already streams 95 percent of its videos through Amazon's cloud (called Amazon Web Services), with plans to make that 100 percent in the coming year.

On Christmas Eve, many people were no doubt trying out their new gadgets -- Roku players, game consoles, and DVRs. And it was those devices that were most affected by the outage. Streams were unavailable for many customers in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. (The problems were cleared up by the afternoon of Christmas Day.)

This isn't the first time Netflix (and its customers) have been victims of Amazon's apparent incompetence. After an outage in June, Amazon blamed an East Coast storm that affected its giant Northern Virginia facility for an outage that also affected such sites as Instagram and Pinterest. That same facility was implicated in a glitch in October that caused an outage that hit Foursquare, Reddit, and many other sites. But no storm that time.

And these problems have been going on for a long time. In April of 2011, an AWS outage took down Quora, Foursquare, Reddit, and HootSuite, among many other sites.

Big companies so far continue to flock to AWS, which is among the biggest cloud providers. With any particular outage, it's hard to precisely apportion fault, since companies pay for various levels of service (more redundancy in the system: basically, backup servers in other locations, which costs more money). Companies use cloud services because it's cheaper and easier than building and maintaining their own data centers. Companies like Google and Facebook have their own server farms because of the huge amounts of data they handle, and because they have gigantic piles of cash at their disposal. But given the frequency of these problems at Amazon, it seems clear that the company had better fix its problems fast, or more companies will either take their business elsewhere or make the investment to handle their own data.

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