Amazon Cloud: Is the Sky Really Falling?

I’ll keep this story short, so as not to strain the cloud unduly.

Amazon’s latest, unfortunate outage has brought out the Chicken Littles for a return appearance – gloating pullets who take seeming pleasure in mocking cloud computing and its potential.

Of course, electricity is still out in many places where AWS is back in. Losing electricity can be said to be more of an inconvenience than losing Netflix, yet few people are calling for a return to candles and natural breezes as the way to light and cool our homes.

I wonder how many private datacenters went down in the recent mid-Atlantic storm, and how many companies had their bacon saved – or kept their bacon – in outsourced redundant systems. How many times did cloud computing save non-cloudy companies over the week-end, versus the number of cloud systems that went down?

In the end, I will bet my 40 acres and a mule that lack of redundancy was once again the root problem here. Too many companies seem to want cloud on the cheap – no insurance needed as the made a mad dash toward the bottom line. Amazon in the past has implied that its failures stemmed from a lack of failover provisioning by stingy customers. Will it do more than imply that this time around?

It takes a long time for technological change to make itself complete. I had a boss in the late 80s who refused to allow voicemail in the office because he thought it made people hide behind their phones. A major hardware chain in the Northeast didn’t even have phones at that time because its management thought they made people lazy.

Amazon’s recent troubles are embarrassing, are fortuitously timed for Google to offer an allegedly more reliable alternative, and provide ample fodder for media know-nothings and knowledgeable industry revanchists.

To me, the troubles point out once again that you can’t do this stuff on the cheap. The opportunity cost of sticking with less elastic systems is tougher to measure than costs associated with outages, but nevertheless, far more companies have been sunk by opportunity costs over the decades than by an overly aggressive move to technology.

Cloud computing will be just fine, even as it leaves nay-sayers in the dust, shaking their fists at all this dad-gummed change.

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