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Amazon outage sparks frustration, doubts about cloud

Patrick Thibodeau | April 22, 2011
On-going problems could scare businesses away from cloud adoption.

Amazon's prolonged outage of cloud services has the potential to set back cloud adoption by giving businesses -- especially those already on the fence -- a strong reason to go slow.

And for those companies that sell cloud services, it means they now have to sell against a new benchmark in unreliability.

Amazon is suffering a partial outage, now in its second day, that is affecting what may be a large number of sites, as well as some prominent ones.

Thanks to Amazon, supporters are going to have a tough time arguing that the uptime delivered by cloud services is superior to anything corporate IT can deliver. That's a problem compounded by Amazon itself. Its users aren't certain just what the problem is or when it'll be fixed.

One person who knows about the problems ahead is Tref Laplante, the CEO WorkXpress, who says the Amazon outage "is going to be devastating."

WorkXpress is a platform as a service. It has created an entirely visual drag-and-drop development environment using Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP to allow app development without writing code. Its users, which include many businesses, have built apps used in medical, real estate, manufacturing and other industries.

Laplante says he has one customer -- a small manufacturer whose core business application was built on WorkXpress and running on Amazon -- who has been knocked offline. "They are fired up and they are very angry," he said. The customer now wants the app hosted on a server in their shop.

Laplante said the Amazon outage, which began Thursday morning, is going to make it difficult to sell cloud approaches. "I'm going to have to sell against this outage."

For some, the Amazon outage may reinforce beliefs that cloud services aren't ready for businesses.

"We don't use Amazon or any other public cloud services and we won't, perhaps ever, or at least until there is much more transparency about where the data lives, who controls where it lives and when/where it moves, and lots of other things," said Jay Leader, the senior vice president and CIO of iRobot, whose products include the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Amazon's outage "just highlights why these are issues - just try to ask them what happened and what the impact was on your data, and even if they tell you, how do you know it's true and/or accurate?"

Paul Haugan, CTO of Lynnwood, Wash., said his city has been looking at Amazon's cloud offerings, but "the recent outage confirmed, for us, that cloud services are not yet ready for prime time."


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