By Matthew Dublin
It looks like the cloud is having trouble weathering some storms as of late.
On Sunday, a lightning strike in Dublin, Ireland caused a failure in data centers powering both Amazon and Microsoft clouds. The lightning struck a transformer causing an explosion that also managed to knock out nearby backup power generators, resulting in a service outage that lasted a surprisingly short three hours.
However, software failures were reported to have complicated matters a bit for Amazon. An error in the Elastic Block Storage (EBS) software, a block level storage service for use with Amazon EC2 compute cloud instances, mistakenly reported that some of the blocks were no longer in use and so deleted them.
Amazon has addressed the error and is working on notifying customers and recovering their data.
As Amazon itself explained on its Service Health Dashboard: "Normally, upon dropping the utility power provided by the transformer, electrical load would be seamlessly picked up by backup generators. The transient electric deviation caused by the explosion was large enough that it propagated to a portion of the phase control system that synchronizes the backup generator plant, disabling some of them."
Continuing on with what has so far not been a stellar week for the cloud provider, on Monday, Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud in North Virginia experienced severe connectivity issues that resulted in outages for several websites and services reliant upon AWS lasting roughly 30 minutes. Among the notable sites affected were Foursquare and Instagram, an iPhone photo sharing site.
In April, Amazon and its customers had their first sobering experience when a massive outage across multiple zones in the eastern U.S. downed numerous websites, including Foursquare, Quora, and Reddit. As one industry analyst said at the time, the biggest impact of these outages may be in the cloud's image itself.
"What will take a hit is the image of this technology as being one you can depend on, and that image was critically damaged today," said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "If the outage continues for long, it could set back growth of this service years and permanently kill efforts by many to use this service in the future."