Amazon and Azure outages show growing pains of “hyper-hyper-scale” public cloud

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On Feb. 28, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) went down after an employee issued the wrong command during a debugging exercise. Among those affected were big names like Netflix, Spotify and Expedia.

On Feb. 28, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) went down after an employee issued the wrong command during a debugging exercise. Among those affected were big names like Netflix, Spotify and Expedia. 

Two weeks later on March 16, issues with Microsoft Azure’s Cluster frustrated storage customers throughout the Eastern U.S. Their data was inaccessible for hours.

While some were surprised by these well-publicized outages, most experts know that even the largest cloud providers can be vulnerable, and therefore so are their customers. And this is no trivial issue: AWS alone accounts for more than 45 percent of public IaaS market share. Customers likely see this scale as reason to trust that their mission-critical computing resources are subject to minimal downtime risk. But is this trust well-placed given how quickly technology is changing and demand is growing?

AWS, Microsoft, Google Cloud and others continue to push the envelope with cloud storage and services. The market has officially moved beyond hyper scale public cloud growth to what I like to call “hyper-hyper-scale” growth. And, more important, vendors are learning to navigate the challenges serving this accelerated growth as they go – a pretty sobering thought. 

Cloud services providers are navigating uncharted waters, and so are their customers. Consider an outage that occurs at unprecedented load levels or because providers are still learning to manage the system – thousands of companies could experience costly disruption as new hard lessons are learned. Businesses must go into this with eyes wide-open. After all, AWS and Azure are just the latest in a slew of high-profile outages (think Delta).

Growing pains are no reason to jump ship, however. The benefits of the cloud are far too numerous. But with hyper-hyper growth must also come hyper-hyper vigilance, and that requires businesses to probe more into what’s protecting them from downtime and loss. 

Increasingly, business are taking a closer look at hybrid cloud strategies, which feature holistic, customized approaches to application deployment and infrastructure architecture by combining public, private and on-prem solutions into a seamless platform. This is probably why MarketsandMarkets estimates that hybrid cloud spending will grow 22 percent annually through 2021 to reach almost $92 billion.

Fear of outages shouldn’t (and won’t) slow down cloud adoption, which is now affecting smaller enterprises as well as the largest global companies. But it will force businesses to be more discerning about technology. Living through this time of hyper-hyper-scale growth is exciting, but we can’t ignore the risks, many of which are avoidable. What we must do is mitigate those risks with investments in strategies such as hybrid cloud and by constantly evaluating the new technologies that sit between our business and our customers.  

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