Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This was never supposed to happen.

Yet, like the famous ocean liner, Amazon's cloud crashed this week, taking with it Reddit, Quora, FourSquare, Hootsuite, parts of the New York Times, ProPublica and about 70 other sites. The massive outage raised questions about the reliability of AWS and the cloud itself.

It was supposed to work like this: Thousands of companies use AWS to run their websites through a service called Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. Rather than hosting their sites on their own servers, these customers turn to Amazon, which essentially rents out its unused -- and highly intricate -- server capacity.

EC2 is hosted in five regions across the globe: Northern Virginia, Northern California, Ireland, Tokyo and Singapore. Within each region are multiple "availability zones," and within each availability zone are multiple "locations" or data centers.

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