Amazon Web Services: A triumph of marketing over reality

Amazon Web Services: A triumph of marketing over reality

Summary: I haven't a clue why people seem so willing to overlook the problems with large-scale cloud service providers.


Consider this sales pitch: I’m going to offer you cloud services from a big-name provider.

I want to replace your private clouds and perhaps even your datacenters. I’m going to be cost-effective, flexible, and continually expanding my infrastructure to support worldwide cloud integration. And to top it off, the history of my product shows that I’m going to have, on average, at least one major service interruption per quarter that will significantly cripple my services, and therefore your service delivery to employees and customers.

In a piece yesterday on Amazon’s blog post announcement of the advanced features to be included in Amazon Virtual Private Clouds, Larry Dignan commented that, “Amazon Web Services has included virtual private clouds in its EC2 instances in a move that may render the marketing pitches of a lot of hardware companies moot. At the very least, AWS threw a virtual curveball to its physical data center rivals.”

In response, all I can say is that I guarantee you that every hardware vendor in the same space is ready to outline, in detail, every service failure that Amazon has experienced in the last year, and not just the high-profile failures that brought down big name customers like Netflix as recently as 11 weeks ago.

More importantly, those same companies are going to point out that Amazon hasn’t seemed to be learning from the failures, as evidenced by the fact that they continue to happen, and that planning for what currently seem to be inevitable problems means that clients of AWS will need to spend additional monies to cover their own operations when these AWS failures occur.

They can also point at their own business's long history of designing systems which maximize uptime with predictable levels of reliability and effective techniques to address disaster recovery and business continuity.

AWS is clearly a proverbial "game changer" in the delivery of cloud services, and it has definite advantages for certain classes of customers; but until it can show the history of reliability that has traditionally been demanded of high-end datacenters, its success in that market segment remains dependent on strong marketing and a Wizard of Oz-like desire on the part of customers to ignore the man behind the curtain.

Topics: Amazon, Cloud, Data Centers

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  • Expectations are off...

    Have you ever built a fault tolerant system? Harder than it sounds and even if you do a good job you'll find keeping it available just 99.99% of the time, which allows for days of downtime per year is not just difficult and expensive, but not likely.
    • Math is a little off...

      99.99% uptime allows for less than 1 hour of downtime per year. (365 * 99.99% = ~364.96 days)
      99% uptime equates to almost 3.5 days of downtime per year. (365 * 99% = ~361.4 days)

      Amazing what a couple of digits of precision can mean!
  • I got confused

    "A triumph of marketing over reality."
    Headline made me think it was about Apple.
  • Suggestion

    How about a big debate between you and Jason Perlow ... he seems to think we will all be assimilated regardless.

    You might also count up the proportion of dissenters to his post!
  • Round of Applause

    What a great piece, and a touch of reality when it comes to AWS. We provide Hosted Services and if our reliability was anywhere near as poor as AWS I'd be surprised if we had any Clients left? thankfully its not and we have only lost 1% of clients in almost 4 years. Some of us and our datacentre partners clearly get it right!
    Phil - Cloud4 Computers
  • Billing Issues | Be careful if you do sign-up

    I signed up for a free Amazon Web Services to test out a couple of weeks ago that was promoted at this link

    I went through the signup process and initiated a database instance on a server; however, I never actually finished setting up the server. So when I received a charge of $716.32, I was quite shocked. I immediately called Amazon, and they informed me that this was a known issue in their back office and they should be able to refund me in the next few days. I asked "Why if this was a known issue, did they not proactively contact me as opposed to being reactive only to my call?", the phone attendant was unable to give me an answer.

    The reason I am commenting is that the free service I assume other start-ups/developers are signing up for may result in significant charges that appear to only being taken care of if AWS is contacted and it may be of value to let general public know of the issue.