A less than merry Christmas for Netflix

Yet another Amazon cloud failure; will anyone notice?

If you were one of those people whose Christmas plans involved a serious overdose on Christmas themed movies via your subscription to Netflix, I’m sure you were disappointed settling for whatever movies were available on cable or OTA, as Netflix experienced a back-end failure that shut the service down Christmas Eve through Christmas day.

Once again, the outage wasn’t specifically Netflix’s fault, other than in their choice of back-end service provider. Hosted on the Amazon cloud, the Netflix outage was a result of problems with the Amazon service.  Amazon reports the problem was with their Amazon Web Services Elastic Load Balancer, in the US-East-Region1 datacenter.

Netflix is one of Amazon’s most highly visible customers for their cloud backend services, is likely the one that generates the highest amount of traffic, and which has a very sophisticated Content Delivery Network.   In short, it’s a very high-profile customer and this is the second time that an Amazon failure has brought down Netflix service delivery in the last six months.  Netflix has done what they can to ameliorate the effects of back-end problems, with their own CDN servers that are being deployed at hub ISPs through-out their service area, but the Amazon cloud failures have still shut down their service for extended periods.

Though its timing is unlikely to make it noticed by business customers, the scale of the failure, in bringing down the Netflix service, needs to be taken into consideration when businesses begin to transition more real-time 24/7 business applications to cloud backends. The question remains if these failures will be taken as a reflection on the cloud services industry as a whole or whether they will be laid at the feet of problematic design issues within the Amazon Web Services.


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