The fierce storm hit several popular internet services, including Netflix, Pinterest, Heroku and Instagram, leaving them offline for up to three hours.
Amazon data centres have regularly faced these outages and in the past, they have informed their customers of this and told them to plan for an outage and prepare to roll over to an alternative data centre in order to maintain access to their services. Unfortunately, this failed to occur on Friday. Adrian Cockcroft, director of Cloud Architecture for Netflix, tweeted that Amazon’s Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) service failed; a service designed to spread Netflix processing loads across its data centres. When this failed, it brought down with it both Netflix and Pinterest. “We lost a much bigger proportion of just one [Amazon data centre] than the last power outage,” Cockcroft tweeted, “and the ELBs didn’t route around it.”
Critics are now pleading for answers to two big questions, the first being why the Ashburn, Virginia data centre failed and the second being why such huge customers were so incredibly affected by one single data centre failure. Amazon spokeswoman Tera Randall explained, “Severe thunderstorms caused us to lose primary and backup generator power to an Availability Zone in our east region overnight. We have restored service to most of our impacted customers and continue to work to restore service for our remaining impacted customers.”
A statement from Dominion Virginia Power explained that the storms took down nearly one million customers’ power, and storm winds reached 80 miles per hour, killing at least six people.
Netflix spokesman Joris Evers explained that the popular streaming website was down for approximately three hours, between 8pm and 11pm. “We’re actively working to analyse the cause and understand what happened,” he added in a statement on Saturday. He also explained that as Netflix doesn’t use Amazon to stream its videos, those who were already watching videos were unaffected. However, those who tried to log onto the website and begin streaming were unable to, which lost Netflix a huge amount of customers due to the outage being during peak internet hours.
Amazon will be issuing a statement explaining what happened very soon.