Public Cloud Outage Sparks Fresh Debate

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 21, 2011

Conversations about the reliability of cloud computing services, particularly for mission critical applications, are almost as prevalent now as they were a couple of years ago. However, it isn’t until services are disrupted for a lengthy period that it becomes the top item in cloud chatter.

A fresh round of talk about reliability began today upon news that Amazon’s EC2 service is being affected by problems at a northern Virginia data center. The problem is rooted in the US-EAST-1 region—a zone that houses popular websites like FourSquare, HootSuite and a handful of others with household name prominence.

For websites that provide base services or networking tools, this is an inconvenience for them (and their users). However, some others are feeling the cascade effect of the outage, including Heroku, which relies on Amazon’s EC2 service to support its widely-used developer platform.

The outage trickle-down effect from EC2 to Heroku means that sites with applications connected to Heroku are affected—a fact that is causing some consternation for web businesses like Flightcaster, which is showing that its application is simply not available to users via a nondescript error screen.

With the possibility of even more cascade-effect problems, one has to wonder about redundancy.  In the wake of the outages today there are already some hefty questions about AWS backup and fail safes. As Larry Dignan noted this morning, AWS is architected so regions back each other up.  While the focus for now is on the immediate set of problems, this topic is bound to populate more than a few opinion pieces over the weekend.

The Roots of the Trouble….

The issues began at close to 2 a.m. EST when the EC2 team began investigating reports of connectivity and latency problems with RDS database instances and EBS volumes in the US-EAST-1 region. The problem persisted through the night as users reported other issues, including long waiting times on some multi-AZ failovers and connectivity errors impacting EC2 instances and increased latencies affecting EBS volumes in multiple availability zones in the US-EAST-1 region. Significant delays in launching EC2 instances and EBS API error rates were frequent.

Later in the morning some of the latency issues had been resolved in portions of the affected zone but IO latency for RDS database instances in other areas were not improving. In terms of the RDS problem, in the last update, which was posted at 8:12 a.m. today, the team stated that “despite the continued effort to resolve the issue we have not made any meaningful progress for the affected database instances since the last update…Create and Restore requests for RDS database instances are not succeeding in the US-EAST-1 region.”

The team noted just after that “A networking event early this morning triggered a large amount of re-mirroring of EBS volumes in the region which created a shortage of capacity in one of the availability zones, which caused problems with new EBS volume creation and the pace that the team was able to re-mirror and recover the EBS volumes that had been affected. At the time of that update they were making some headway but nothing significant had been accomplished to resolve that problem.

According the AWS status page, which rarely shows anything but a list of green symbols indicating a go on services worldwide, only this region is begin affected but it is still some time before a resolution will be available.  

In the middle of the night last night the Elastic Beanstalk service was sending error messages that had an impact on the service’s APIs and console, which lasted for around four hours. As of this morning (Eastern) the company notes that both the APIs and console have recovered but there are some problems for users trying to create new instances in existing environments.

Outages Just Come With the Territory?

Although the problems are different this time technically, this is reminiscent of the outage a few months back. That problem  was caused by two back-to-back hardware failures which caused power supply failure in an availability zone data center followed immediately by the fizzling of a key element in the backup system. Following that event, a flurry of editorial ensued with some expressing concerns and others who simply suggested that this was just part of something we’ll need to learn to live with in the cloud era.  

As Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM reported today, the large question and answer website Quora, which is hosted on Amazon’s EC2 service, had a sense of humor about the outage. The web giant posted a YouTube video that closed with the lines, “we’d point fingers, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without EC2.”

She went on to make a great point about how outages are something that we’re just going to have to live with, noting that “much like the trend in fun 404 pages, the habit of making light of a failure can endear your service…and providing quality information that indicates you know what’s wrong and are working on it is always a plus. However, what is refreshing about this latest outage is that so far the attitude is more resigned to cloud services going down for a bit as opposed to an all out condemnation of cloud services as unreliable.”

Her point is a good one—we’ve all grown used to error pages for sites when they experienced a failure of one kind or another—it’s nothing new.  However, when the problem is rooted in a service that is so pervasive as to cause a cascade effect or to bring down many popular sites in one swift round, it draws far more attention than an isolated server or hardware failure.

This isn’t going to do any favors to back the argument that the cloud is a good place for mission-critical applications. For the websites and services that were shut down today the whole of their business model relies exclusively on Amazon’s ability to stick to its SLAs.

While sure, problems happen with any infrastructure (not to mention such a vast network of data centers), Amazon will need to be careful about how it approaches this following restoration…they will need to the point to the fact of the rarity of such instances but far more importantly, be able to come up with a clear reason why backups and failsafes…well, weren’t.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

2017 Gordon Bell Prize Finalists Named

October 23, 2017

The three finalists for this year’s Gordon Bell Prize in High Performance Computing have been announced. They include two papers on projects run on China’s Sunway TaihuLight system and a third paper on 3D image recon Read more…

By John Russell

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This