Storm Clouds


Last week I mentioned several key trends we’ve seen that portend an increase in deployments of cloud-based collaboration, including the acquisition of Smoothstone by West Corporation, and recent efforts by vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, and Siemens to deliver real-time collaboration services via the cloud. Unfortunately, IT buyers are likely to temper their enthusiasm for cloud-based collaboration given the recent high profile multi-day outage by Amazon Web Services “EC2” Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud platform for hosted applications.

While data center outages can and do happen all the time, Amazon's cloud was touted as resilient to generalized failures (e.g., a failure scenario taking down all Amazon services.) Amazon’s architectural approach separates the infrastructure into geographic regions, and then further into availability zones, which Amazon designs to be relatively compartmentalized, and therefore resilient. The recent outage affected only one region (Northern Virginia or US-East-1, as Amazon terms it) but crossed availability zones in the region, nullifying high-availability application architectures and disrupting many customers. The outage proves that even highly resilient, well architected, and distributed systems fail. So what does the Amazon outage really prove? Simply that despite the hype, cloud is not infallible. Neither are your data centers, co-lo centers, or other computing facilities. As an Amazon EC2 user this is the first significant outage we’ve experienced in nearly four years. To achieve that same level of resiliency using our own servers/Internet services is cost prohibitive, and the Amazon service’s reliability has exceeded that of other hosted services we use for platforms such as messaging and CRM.

The bottom-line for IT buyers: The cloud isn’t infallible, but don’t get caught up in the hype over one outage and dismiss all cloud-based services. Instead, make sure that you have a backup plan and diversify computing facility assets, including into cloud before you write off cloud completely.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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