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Dark “Clouds” Forming After Netflix Outage Blamed On Amazon

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(Graphic: the Netflix web site)

(Graphic: the Netflix web site)

Ian Bush Ian Bush
Ian Bush is an anchor, reporter, news editor, and technology editor&nb...
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By KYW tech editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – From Christmas Eve through noon on Christmas Day, Netflix customers couldn’t watch any TV shows or movies on the service (see related story).

It’s an inconvenience for subscribers, but a major problem for businesses that trust other companies to store and deliver data.

You can get most anything from Amazon — including cloud storage.

“Amazon has a bunch of big, huge server farms,” says Barb Darrow, senior writer at the tech site GigaOM.com.

Darrow says companies like Netflix let cloud providers like Amazon do the data dirty work — the expensive, taxing task of serving up whatever information the rest of us on the Internet are asking for.

Over the holiday, a glitch at Amazon’s facility in suburban Washington, DC left Netflix users with nothing on their screens.

“Part of the reason is that it’s the largest and oldest of Amazon data centres  and it’s also the data centre on which Amazon deploys new services first,” Darrow says. “While companies are supposed to be dividing their workloads among different data centers, sometimes you don’t have the choice because you’re using a new service that is available only from Amazon US-East.”

An outage there in October affected sites and services like Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, and FourSquare. Darrow says such issues are a PR problem for cloud providers like Amazon, and worse for companies who have no control over what’s happening.

“Especially because Amazon is really wanting businesses to let them handle more of their mission-critical workload. It’s one thing for an online video site to go out — it’s an inconvenience and a pain. But if it’s a business database or accounting system, that’s a whole other issue. Things like this will spook CEOs going forward. Because this gets huge coverage. If I’m a CIO, and I want to go to Amazon, my boss is going to say, ‘isn’t that the cloud that went out over Christams eve?'”

It’s not just Amazon. Google, HP, Microsoft, and Rackspace are among other cloud providers that have to balance size with service — where even a momentary outage can mean a business’s worst nightmare.

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