As happened with Salesforce.com a couple of years ago, Amazon S3 is having serious problems serving its customers today. Like Salesforce.com at the time, Amazon is criticized for not being transparent enough about it.
Right now, “cloud computing” is also “fog computing”. There is very little visibility (if any) into the infrastructure that is being consumed as a service. Part of this is a feature (a key reason for using these services is freedom from low-level administration) but part of it is a defect.
The clamor for Amazon to provide more updates about the outage on the AWS blog is a bit misplaced in that sense. Sure, that kind of visibility (“well folks, it was bring-your-hamster-to-work day at the Amazon data center today and turns out they love chewing cables. Our bad. The local animal refuge is sending us all their cats to help deal with the mess. Stay tuned”) gives a warm fuzzy (!) feeling but that’s not very actionable.
It’s not a matter for Amazon of giving access to its entire management stack (even in view-only mode) to its customers. It’s a matter of extracting customer-facing metrics that are relevant and exposing them in a way that can be consumed by the customer’s IT management tools. So they can be integrated in the overall IT decisions. And it’s not just monitoring even though that’s a good start. Saying “I don’t want to know how you run the service, all I care is what you do for me”, only takes you so far in enterprise computing. This opacity is a great way to hide single points of failure:
I predict (as usual, no date) that we will see companies that thought they were hedging their bets by using two different SaaS providers only to realize, on the day Amazon goes down again, that both SaaS providers were hosting on Amazon EC2 (or equivalent). Or, on the day a BT building catches fire, that both SaaS providers had their data centers there.
Just another version of “for diversification, I had a high yield fund and a low risk fund. I didn’t really read the prospectus. Who would have guessed that they were both loaded with mortgage debt?”
More about IT management in a utility computing world in a previous entry.
[UPDATED: Things have improved a bit since writing this. Amazon now has a status panel. But it’s still limited to monitoring. Today it’s Google App Engine who is taking the heat.]