Amazon Can Take Down The Internet Without Any Explanation

Can’t access the web? Don’t worry. Neither can millions of other users.

Errors big or small, can sometimes cause a massive amount of damage.

That is exactly what happened when Amazon basically destroyed the one thing we all hold dear.

The internet.

How did Amazon do it?

Even though it was only for a couple of hours?

As it turns out, the huge internet outage happened because of a little Amazon error.

What was that little Amazon error?

Let’s find out.

Amazon Might Be Powerful. Too Powerful For Its Own Good.

Amazon is in total control of a huge strip of cloud computing services.

That’s a fact no one can deny.

At least not at the moment.

Because then we won’t be able to blame Amazon for the internet outage (will discuss that in a bit).

The other fact that no one can deny is that on Tuesday afternoon, it became frightfully clear that Amazon held the key to the internet as far as people in the US were concerned.

Yes. We’re talking about the same internet outage that you probably suffered.

Especially if your livelihood depended on basic human needs such as the internet.

Various reports in the media have published that the outage was caused by a string of errors rather than a single error.

What exactly did these errors do to the internet?

We already know that it took out the internet. Most of it anyway.

But what do we mean when we say “Amazon took out the internet”?

What we mean is that because of Amazon’s screw-job, countless websites on the internet went offline.

In other words, they were brought to a halt.

Rather suddenly.

People could not access hugely popular websites such as Quora and Gizmodo.

And what is life if you can’t even ask “what the heck is wrong with my internet” on Quora?

Amazon is the alpha male when it comes to market domination in cloud computing services.

The Real Problem Is Amazon

Not because it is inherently evil and Jeff Bezos is a control freak who pushes his engineers a bit too hard.

But because of a phenomena known as the consolidation of power.

In short, it is bad.

Yesterday’s internet outage somewhat gave strong indications why it could be a very serious problem.

How is Amazon responsible for all of this?

We’re not saying that Amazon is responsible.

We’re saying that the current setup is prone to failure.

Because Amazon owns all of it.

One fault at Amazon means that millions of people get knocked off the internet grid.

And can’t work.

Hence can’t make a living.

The important thing to understand here is the Amazon does not work like a conventional retail business.

When we talk about Amazon, what we’re really talking about is Amazon Web Services (AWS).

And while Amazon’s marketplace indeed follows most of the rules that society has come to expect, AWS is anything but traditional.

Some experts say that Amazon Web Services work like your average house of cards.

Let’s explain what that really means.

Amazon Connect A Lot People To A Lot Of People. Which Is Starting To Become A Problem

That’s what Internet outage feels like.

Generally speaking, whenever the name Amazon is mentioned we immediately think of the online store.

And an online store that sells books.

And some electronics on a discount.

To anybody and nearly everybody.

On the other hand, Amazon Web Services is different.

Amazon Web Services is different because it caters to another set of clients.

Mostly, it manages enterprises along with other large organizations.

It provides them with the necessary cloud-computing services.

So where exactly did the errors occur?

Why do we want to know?

As mentioned before, because it took out the internet for a lot of people and hence disrupted their work day.

Which is not cool.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) experienced problems on Tuesday afternoon.

By problems, we mean errors.

Small errors.

Lots of small errors.

In fact, if we were to say that these errors basically wrecked a sizable portion of the web for quite a number of hours, it would be true.

For those who don’t know, Amazon Simple Storage Service provides vital storage facilities for many commonly used apps.

Most of these apps are cloud-based.

The two most known apps that malfunctioned yesterday were Trello and Slack.

What’s The Official Word?

Amazon has not commented on the “incident”.

Interestingly enough, on its official website, Amazon proudly claims (in bright colors) that it’s Simple Storage Service service is great.

How great?

According to official sources, Amazon Simple Storage Service is designed to deliver 99.99999999 percent durability.

Moreover, it also offers 99.99 percent availability of objects over a given year.

Of course, that claim did help apps like Trello and Slack last night right?

Here is the problem with Amazon Simple Storage Service.

Even if a single piece of the overall infrastructure experiences some kind of failure, the whole service gets affected.

More precisely, all Amazon Web Services get affected.

And they fail.

In a rather spectacular way.

Why does a fault in Amazon Web Services affect such a massive portion of the internet?

Shouldn’t it just affect Amazon? At the most, every other service that Amazon offers?

Technically yes.

But here is the thing.

When it comes to services such as cloud computing, Amazon controls a mammoth portion of the current market share.

Its sphere of control is even larger if we only consider cloud storage among all other cloud computing services.

Gartner, an internet technology research company, published a study in August 2016.

The study claimed that Amazon Web Services controlled a ridiculous 31 percent of the market as far as global cloud infrastructure was concerned.

Moreover, the study also stated that Amazon’s cloud computing services business was set to grow even further.

The study revealed a lot of other things as well.

More Amazon Facts From The Study

Let’s take a look at the one that caught our eye the most especially in relation to what happened on Tuesday afternoon.

The study unearthed that Amazon Web Services was responsible for a mind-boggling 51 percent of Amazon’s profits.

With that said, it also has to be mentioned that another study published in the same time period put Amazon’s market share at around 45 percent.

Regardless of which study you agree with, one thing is for sure.

Amazon’s share in the cloud computing market is extraordinary.

A bit too extraordinary to be safe it seems.

The Rest Of The Big League Players Are Also Coming Onto The Scene.

Just because Amazon has a huge headstart over the rest of its competitors, doesn’t mean there won’t be any competition.

The likes of Google, Microsoft, and IBM are all believed to be expanding their own cloud services.

But despite their best efforts, Amazon has managed to stay ahead of the competition for the past eleven years.

In short, Amazon is the sole leader in the cloud computing service market.

And that has been the case since 2006.

Amazon Is The King Of The Cloud

As mentioned earlier, Amazon has sat at the throne of cloud computing for more than a decade.

What has it exactly achieved during that time period?

A lot, would be an understatement.

And all of that was because of Amazon’s unique business model.

Well, it wasn’t that unique considering that Jeff Bezos compared it to the early beginning of electricity, but it was very thoughtful indeed.

Basically, Amazon’s business model allowed startups (that tended to fail quickly while starting to grow) to scale quickly.

But not just scale.

Amazon’s business model enabled these startups to grow while affording the expenses of hosting.

Ingrid Burrington, who has written some pieces about the phenomena in The Atlantic, said something similar in a last year report.

He said that in practise, Amazon’s business model meant that pricing for services was entirely contingent on actual use.

Ingrid further added that this approach allowed developers to scale their small startups at a rapid scale.

And all they had to do to turn their startups into massive companies was pay for the infrastructure support on an as-needed basis and scaffolding as needs grew.

All of this was made possible by Amazon Web Services.


Ingrid wrote that because of Amazon Web Services the initial overhead of starting an online service like Airbnb or Slack came down sharply.

Both Slack and Airbnb are actually Amazon Web Services customers now.

Ingrid continued that Amazon Web Services brought operation costs so low that companies like Slack and Airbnb could afford to go big and expand very quickly.

So Amazon Web Services Is Great. What Else.

We have already established that because of the Amazon Web Services benefits, many startups signed up for the service.

And they signed up in droves.

They did so rather quickly too.

But, if you really think about it, what happens when a service expands too quickly?

Let’s change the question a bit.

What happens when an online cloud computing service gets extremely big, extremely quickly?

What if a cloud computing service expands so quickly that it tries to devour the entire cloud computing industry?

The answer is simple really.

If a company gets too big, then any of its failure gets amplified by a thousand folds.

In other words, any serious fault in the service results in mass-scale destruction.

And that is exactly the case with Amazon Web Services.

Because even though Amazon claims it can keep the service up for 99.99 percent of the time, it doesn’t address the issue of the other .01 percent.

And when you’re as big as Amazon Web Services, a 0.01 percent downtime means that 31 percent, which is over one-third, of the online internet services can’t function properly.

When Amazon Web Services don’t provide the data that it is supposed to provide, apps like Slack and Airbnb go down.

Sometimes for hours.

Which affects a lot people.

Conveniently, that’s what happened on Tuesday afternoon as well.

Amazon Is Secretive.

You won’t find many Amazon representatives talk a lot about Amazon’s customers as far as its cloud computing services go.

In other words, no one really knows the total number of online services that experience failures whenever AWS experiences a failure.

Amazon won’t even reveal the exact percentage of the online internet traffic that gets affected every time its services go down.

But Tuesday’s internet outage should be enough to give anyone a good idea.

In fact, it really showed that any fault within Amazon Web Services could bring down entire online networks of websites rather than just single ones.

The important point to understand here is that a fault with Amazon Web Services doesn’t just slow these websites/apps down. It brings them to a complete halt.

As indicated earlier, hugely popular websites like Gizmodo and Quora were unreachable yesterday.

For several hours.

The Problem Gets Even Worse

Most of you probably don’t know that a majority of Amazon’s Amazon Web Services servers are situated in northern Virginia.

Northern Virginia is also the place where a truck load of other tubes also come together.

In short, all these tubes coming together in a single place form a congested bottleneck of online internet traffic.

Which in turn, doesn’t help the situation with AWS either.

This region of “tubes” is also known as the US-EAST-1.

According to Amazon, this was also the region which was the source of the internet outage that took place on Tuesday afternoon.

Needless to say, Tuesday’s event would have definitely given Amazon engineers a good amount of headache.

ANd perhaps Amazon should experience some of that.

Because the “small errors” paralyzed most of the web for a lot of people and ruined their work day.

One can’t help but wonder if the likes of Google, Microsoft, and IBM are thrilled to see Amazon’s attempts to cover the mess up.

As mentioned before in the article as well, they too are competing with Amazon in the cloud computing space.

Mostly in order to trim down Amazon’s ludicrous market share.

And now they have plenty of subject matter.

All they have to do is keep repeating the same message.

What’s that message?

The message is that Amazon’s Amazon Web Services isn’t reliable or durable one hundred percent of the time.

Competition Can’t Hurt

You can bet that salespeople from the three abovementioned competitors will be citing this single incident to further damage AWS.

By damage we mean, increase competition.

There is no easier way to increase competition by chopping down your competitor’s market share.

And we all know what more competition means right?

It means that there is a good chance that Amazon will not get pushed to improve its cloud computing services.

It also means lower prices for each of AMazon’s AWS clients.

So basically, Amazon’s failure is a win-win situation for everybody else.

Just for clarity’s sake, Amazon still has not put out an official statement regarding what took place on Tuesday afternoon.


Zohair A. Zohair is currently a content crafter at Security Gladiators and has been involved in the technology industry for more than a decade. He is an engineer by training and, naturally, likes to help people solve their tech related problems. When he is not writing, he can usually be found practicing his free-kicks in the ground beside his house.
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