Twas a dark and dreary day, with the Roombas at a standstill, smart litter kitty boxes shut down, and final exams cancelled. Amazon delivery drivers resorted to singing karaoke, and binge-watchers across the globe cried tears of anguish when their favorite shows went offline.
Calamity, chaos, and mind-numbing inertia crippled users, teachers, and companies around the world – all because of one corporation.
Last week, Amazon web services suffered a nine-hour-outage which sent swarths of sites, services, apps, and more offline. With Amazon comprising 33 percent of the global cloud infrastructure market, the effects were felt in every corner of society.
According to CNBC:
[The] outage began around 11 a.m. ET and was mostly resolved by [that] night. Amazon confirmed that service issues with AWS’ main US-East-1 region, located in Northern Virginia, were causing problems for its warehouse and delivery network. The company hasn’t said what caused the outage.
Fulfillment center and delivery operations were brought to a standstill in some pockets of the U.S., Amazon said. The outage took down internal apps used to scan packages and load delivery routes, according to workers’ posts in Facebook groups and a notice sent to drivers that was viewed by CNBC.
Who was affected?
Among the companies impacted were giants like Disney+, Netflix, Slack, Tinder, Ticketmaster, Robinhood, and Coinbase (the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S.), among others. Some students couldn’t take their finals or access assignments because the 30-million-user educational platform Canvas was down, as well as the test proctoring tool LockDown Browser.
But perhaps those hardest hit were the third-party merchants who depend on a rush of orders before the end of the year for a significant portion of their profit. One Amazon seller, Joe Stefani, owner of the shop Desert Cactus, told CNBC that the outage prevented him from moving inventory into his warehouse:
Sellers such as Stefani weren’t able to access Seller Central, an internal system Amazon uses to manage customer orders. That meant Stefani was unable to print out shipping labels that are required for any shipments sent to Amazon warehouses.
“We could not send in at least 10,000 to 12,000 items,” including NBA and NHL merchandise, Stefani said. “It will end up costing us money in the long run.”
Luckily, Amazon’s team managed to get things moving again pretty quickly – but the incident is a chilling reminder of the dangers associated with increasing dependence of infrastructure on a single company.