In the News | Mar 14, 2017

AWS S3 outage: Channel partners mull redundancy options

Channel partner executives and industry observers consider redundancy options in the aftermath of Amazon Web Services' recent Simple Storage Service outage.

Last week's AWS S3 outage wasn't the first for Amazon Web Services -- and probably not the last -- but the four-hour disruption was enough to cause customers and their channel partner advisers to reflect on cloud vulnerability.

On the customer side, the outage is likely to influence CIOs to weigh their options, noted SearchCIO features writer Jason Sparapani in his column, "Amazon cloud outage: A CIO survivor's guide." "Should they spread their applications among different cloud providers, invest more in hybrid cloud -- which combines use of the public cloud with an internal private cloud -- or find a way for apps to function even when a cloud provider doesn't?"

A lack of awareness?

As it turns out, cost may not be the only factor keeping customers away from redundancy measures, some of which are available from the cloud providers themselves. In the case of S3, customers can avail themselves of AWS' Cross-Region Replication (CRR) feature, said Dan Robinson, Senior Engagement Manager at TriCore Solutions LLC, a consulting and managed cloud services provider based in Norwell, Mass.

Businesses using CRR will incur extra storage costs in the different AWS regions, Robinson noted. But, he said, those costs pale in comparison to the cost of an outage.

But if CRR is there for the asking, why were so many companies evidently operating without it? Robinson, who said he was taken aback at the number of companies affected by the AWS S3 outage, thinks many organizations were simply unaware of the Cross-Region Replication capability.

"It does come down to a lot of the companies in the cloud don't fully understand what is out there and what is available," Robinson said. "If people were just aware of what they could do with S3, [the outage] would have been a nonissue for the majority of people."

S3 CRR, however, isn't without its nuances. Applications using S3 as the back end would require some work in the event of an outage, Robinson said. S3 uses a global namespace, a feature that aims to simplify the management of distributed file systems. As a consequence, applications using S3 would need to be repointed to the target S3 bucket, Robinson said. Buckets are S3's logical storage units, where customers can upload their data. The replication scenario is simpler if customers are using S3 just as storage, he noted.

The bottom line: How customers use S3 CRR to work through an outage will depend on how they employ S3 to begin with, Robinson said.

Weighing costs and benefits:

Channel partners, in their role as IT advisers, could find themselves in a position to help customers think through the implications of a cloud blackout and what steps they need to take to protect themselves.

Robinson said organizations can conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine what level of redundancy and what type of disaster recovery plan will best serve their needs. Restore time objectives, restore point objectives and service-level agreements all play a role in determining whether an organization needs to build a hybrid cloud for protection, work with multiple cloud providers, opt for intra-cloud redundancy or pursue some other alternative.

In some cases, the customer's preferred alternative may be to remain content with the cloud's out-of-the-box reliability. Lydia Leong, a vice president and distinguished analyst with the IT Leaders group at Gartner, said many customers looking at S3's reliability, which she said has been very high, "make the decision that they don't want to pay for replication. [They'll] deal with acceptable risk."

Leong said some customers will probably re-evaluate the AWS S3 outage and their cloud risk along the following lines: "Can [they] live with an outage like this every couple of years, or do they feel like they need more redundancy? And, if so, what's the best way to get that?"

Robinson likened a cloud protection plan to purchasing insurance.

"It's an insurance policy, and the insurance policy can be very high or very low in terms of costs," he said.                                                      

Read more »