Major Outage at Amazon Disrupts Businesses Across the US

December 8, 2021by Frank Bajak and Barbara Ortutay, Associated Press
Major Outage at Amazon Disrupts Businesses Across the US
A U.S. flag flies in front of the Amazon Spheres on the company's corporate campus in downtown Seattle, Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A major outage in Amazon’s cloud computing network Tuesday severely disrupted services at a wide range of U.S. companies for more than five hours, the latest sign of just how concentrated the business of keeping the internet running has become.

The incident at Amazon Web Services mostly affected the eastern U.S., but still impacted everything from airline reservations and auto dealerships to payment apps and video streaming services to Amazon’s own massive e-commerce operation. That included The Associated Press, whose publishing system was inoperable for much of the day, greatly limiting its ability to publish its news report.

Amazon has still said nothing about what, exactly, went wrong. In fact, the company limited its communications Tuesday to terse technical explanations on an AWS dashboard and a brief statement delivered via spokesperson Richard Rocha that acknowledged the outage had affected Amazon’s own warehouse and delivery operation but said the company was “working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Roughly five hours after numerous companies and other organizations began reporting issues, the company said in a post on the AWS status page that it had “mitigated” the underlying problem responsible for the outage, which it did not describe. It took some affected companies hours more to thoroughly check their systems and restart their own services.


Amazon Web Services was formerly run by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who succeeded founder Jeff Bezos in July. The cloud-service operation is a huge profit center for Amazon. It holds roughly a third of the $152 billion market for cloud services, according to a report by Synergy Research — a larger share than its closest rivals, Microsoft and Google, combined.

To technologist and public data access activist Carl Malamud, the AWS outage highlights how much Big Tech has warped the internet, which was originally designed as a distributed and decentralized network intended to survive mass disasters such as nuclear attack.

“When we put everything in one place, be it Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we’re violating that fundamental principle,” said Malamud, who developed the internet’s first radio station and later put a vital U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission database online. “We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw that today with the Amazon failure.”

Widespread and often lengthy outages resulting from single-point failures appear increasingly common. In June, the behind-the-scenes content distributor Fastly suffered a failure that briefly took down dozens of major internet sites including CNN, The New York Times and Britain’s government home page.


Then in October, Facebook — now known as Meta Platforms — blamed a “faulty configuration change” for an hours-long worldwide outage that took down Instagram and WhatsApp in addition to its titular platform.

This time, problems began midmorning on the U.S. East Coast, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc, a network intelligence firm. Netflix was one of the more prominent names affected; Kentik saw a 26% drop in traffic to the streaming service.

Customers trying to book or change trips with Delta Air Lines had trouble connecting to the airline. “Delta is working quickly to restore functionality to our AWS-supported phone lines,” said spokesperson Morgan Durrant. The airline apologized and encouraged customers to use its website or mobile app instead.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it switched to West Coast servers after some airport-based systems were affected by the outage. Customers were still reporting outages to DownDetector, a popular clearinghouse for user outage reports, more than three hours after they started. Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said there were no major disruptions to flights.

Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said the company’s U.S. East Region for dealer services went down. The company has apps that access inventory data, monthly payment calculators, service bulletins and other items. More than 20 apps were affected.

Also according to DownDetector, people trying to use Instacart, Venmo, Kindle, Roku, and Disney+ reported issues. The McDonald’s app was also down. But the airlines American, United, Alaska and JetBlue were unaffected.


Madory said he saw no reason to suspect nefarious activity. He said the recent cluster of major outages reflects how complex the networking industry has become. “More and more these outages end up being the product of automation and centralization of administration,” he said. “This ends up leading to outages that are hard to completely avoid due to operational complexity but are very impactful when they happen.”

It was unclear how, or whether, the outage was affecting the federal government. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in an email response to questions that it was working with Amazon “to understand any potential impacts this outage may have for federal agencies or other partners.”

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Business

June 21, 2022
by Dan McCue
Business Groups Pushing Back Hard on SEC Emissions Reporting Proposal

WASHINGTON — Business groups and corporate lobbyists were among those pushing back hardest as the deadline elapsed Friday on a... Read More

WASHINGTON — Business groups and corporate lobbyists were among those pushing back hardest as the deadline elapsed Friday on a Securities and Exchange Commission proposal that would require companies for the first time to disclose their carbon emissions and climate change risks to investors. In March,... Read More

June 15, 2022
by Dan McCue
Amazon, Cartier Sue Social Media Influencer, Businesses, Over Counterfeits

SEATTLE – Amazon and Cartier filed joint lawsuits against an unnamed social media influencer and eight businesses on Wednesday on... Read More

SEATTLE – Amazon and Cartier filed joint lawsuits against an unnamed social media influencer and eight businesses on Wednesday on claims they advertised, promoted, and facilitated the sale of counterfeit luxury goods through Instagram and other websites. The federal lawsuits, filed in the Western District of... Read More

US Has Over 750 Complaints That Teslas Brake for No Reason

DETROIT (AP) — More than 750 Tesla owners have complained to U.S. safety regulators that cars operating on its partially... Read More

DETROIT (AP) — More than 750 Tesla owners have complained to U.S. safety regulators that cars operating on its partially automated driving systems have suddenly stopped on roadways for no apparent reason. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed the number in a detailed information request... Read More

June 1, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Sheryl Sandberg Steps Down as Facebook Exec

WASHINGTON — Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg announced she is leaving the company this fall after 14 years. “Fourteen years later,... Read More

WASHINGTON — Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg announced she is leaving the company this fall after 14 years. “Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I am not entirely sure what the... Read More

June 1, 2022
by Dan McCue
Koch Companies Partner to Build Massive Solar Farm to Power Oil Refinery

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – Two Koch companies are partnering to build what they say may be the largest solar installation of... Read More

ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – Two Koch companies are partnering to build what they say may be the largest solar installation of its kind in the United States to help power Minnesota’s largest oil refinery. The Flint Hills’ Pine Bend oil refinery is located in Rosemount, which is... Read More

May 24, 2022
by Dan McCue
Hyundai to Build $6.5B Electric Vehicle Plant Near Savannah, Georgia

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Hyundai Motor Group is planning to invest $6.5 billion in a massive electric vehicle factory just south... Read More

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Hyundai Motor Group is planning to invest $6.5 billion in a massive electric vehicle factory just south of the city of Savannah. The plans were jointly announced by Gov. Brian Kemp and Hyundai Chairman Char Euisun Chung. Once completed, the plant will create... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top