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Sony division moves some services from AWS to OpenStack

Cites last year's multi-week outage as reasoning

By , Network World
March 09, 2012 05:09 AM ET

Network World - The division of Sony that suffered a cyberattack last year, which led to a major PlayStation network outage and sensitive customer data being compromised, has dropped Amazon Web Services for at least a portion of its cloud hosting and computing in favor of an OpenStack platform hosted by Rackspace.

Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) -- which manages popular games such as "Grand Theft Auto IV" and "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" -- made the move away from AWS after a series of highly publicized performance issues, according to an email from a public relations firm representing Rackspace.

(Sony officials, having declined to comment over the course of a week, confirmed this afternoon after this story published that the company is using an OpenStack platform, but said it would continue to use AWS as well. "Sony Computer Entertainment America utilizes various hosting options, including those from Amazon Web Services and OpenStack, among others, for its game platforms," said Dan Race, director of corporate communications with SCEA. "The reports claiming that SCEA is discontinuing its relationship with Amazon Web Services are inaccurate.")

The cyberattack that caused SCEA to shut down its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services, which allows gamers to play opponents online and purchase games and content, also led to information such as customer names, email addresses, usernames and passwords of 77 million people being compromised. AWS has denied that its services were involved.

BACKGROUND: Timeline of Sony outage

RELATED: Alleged members of hactivist group LulzSec busted

Sony, SCEA's parent, said last year there was an "external intrusion" of the network, but the company has since provided few additional details. A report by Bloomberg, however, linked AWS to the outage, citing an anonymous source who claimed that the hackers created a fake AWS account and used AWS computers to launch the attack on Sony.

SCEA's decision to embrace OpenStack, which is an evolving open-source platform to launch cloud environments, is "big news" for the OpenStack community, said Marc Brien, an analyst with Domicity, who tracks the OpenStack movement.

Started last year by Rackspace and NASA, OpenStack has gained momentum in recent months and now includes more than 140 companies. Most of those, Brien said, are service providers that offer cloud products to customers, including Rackspace, Citrix, Dell and recently IBM. For a big-name end user to sign on to the project is a positive sign for OpenStack, he said. SCEA joins Disney and CERN, the European nuclear science group, as users committed to using OpenStack.

"It's a big announcement. It raises the question, is this the water beginning to pour over the dam?" he said. Brien expects that within a few years, or sooner, the OpenStack project will have advanced to a point where it will attract a large number of users, but it's not quite there yet, he said.

SCEA's migration from AWS to Rackspace's OpenStack cloud platform was "relatively quick," said the email from the PR agency, taking approximately six days, and it was done in a way that end users would not notice a difference. It's unclear how much of SCEA's cloud-based services have already migrated away from AWS products. The news was originally going to be announced last week, but representatives from the companies involved said they would wait until next week to speak about the move. Sony officials have not responded to questions related to the topic.

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