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The east coast data centers of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world's largest cloud computing services provider, went down yesterday, wreaking havoc across an already stressed supply chain just weeks before Christmas

From the Washington Post:

"The company offered few details about the outage, instead pointing to the Amazon Web Services health dashboard, which noted by Tuesday afternoon that the 'root cause of this issue is an impairment of several network devices.' The issue, which hit AWS data centers in the eastern United States, had extended to its monitoring and incident response technology, 'which is delaying our ability to provide updates'."

It wasn't just outside companies hit hard by the outage.  The Post reports that "the outage hampered Amazon’s business as well. The company’s vast warehouse operations, which also use AWS, saw computer systems disrupted, spokesman Richard Rocha said in an email. Computer systems at one Midwest warehouse were disrupted starting Tuesday morning, a warehouse worker said late in the day … And Amazon’s own Ring home security business noted on its website that its app was having problems saving changes made by customers, as well as live views from its cameras failing to connect to the app. Ring spokeswoman Emma Daniels said the services’ issues were related to the AWS problems."

From The Verge:

"The Amazon Web Services outage that started this morning might be worse than it seemed. That’s not only because it’s reportedly cutting off some streams from Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and Netflix, but because the apps that keep warehouse, delivery, and Amazon Flex workers connected are down, too.

"Amazon has confirmed it’s 'experiencing elevated error rates for EC2 APIs in the US-EAST-1' region, meaning that connections from one of its largest server operations are spotty at best. Posts in the Amazon employee subreddits say many people can’t access the AtoZ app that manages practically everything about their jobs.

"Warehouse workers report entire facilities shut down due to network problems and have posted pictures of the company’s automated shelves sitting motionless. Truck drivers report they used pen and paper forms to check each load out, assuming they could leave."

From CNBC:

"The outage began around 11 a.m. EST. As of Tuesday evening, AWS said in an updated notice that many of the underlying issues causing the outage have been mitigated.

All issues impacting its popular EC2 cloud computing service were resolved as of 6:30 p.m. EST, while other services were still having problems, according to AWS’ status page … The outage is hitting Amazon’s retail operations at a particularly inconvenient time. The company is in the middle of 'peak season,' when holiday shoppers place a flurry of orders and the e-commerce giant is under immense pressure to make sure their packages arrive on time."

KC's View:

In some ways, while this outage certainly is inconvenient and ill-timed, it isn't like the Earth stopped spinning on its axis.  It slowed down a number of businesses, but it is still more than two weeks until Christmas, and I think we're all going to survive.  (I may be more sanguine about this because MNB didn't go down yesterday.  That would've been calamitous.)

But … this also is a reminder of how fragile the whole e-commerce and cloud computing ecosystem can be.  Choose your metaphor:  DominoesJenga?  The downside of Amazon positioning itself as a company without which we cannot survive, as being integral to how we live our everyday lives, is that when it cannot deliver on that promise, even for reasons beyond its control, attention is brought to bear on the company and its activities and priorities.