Drew Olanoff wrote a piece for The Next Web a few days ago about the recent evening of AWS service outage as a result of a severe storm, which affected the availability of services like Netflix, hosted on Amazon's cloud offering. There was the predictable shock and horror at this, the outrage of so many privileged little bastards, but Netflix took to their blog to say that despite this outage, they still thought the cloud was pretty well okay, and that they're still "bullish" on it.
Here's the thing, kids: people freaking out about a cloud service going down because of bad weather are idiots. We all like to pretend that we humans are kings of the planet, in control of all things, but then it's too cold or too hot or just a little bit too wet, and we disappear from the surface of the goddamn world like cockroaches. And we build things that we think are resilient and strong and can withstand everything until anything happens, and they all crumble. We do our best, but crap, it's not perfect. It won't ever be.
While it only affected those in the United States, it lasted three hours, which is a lifetime for any service, let alone one that serves up streaming movies.
Really? REALLY? Three hours is a lifetime for any service? Is the implication here that if your toilet gets plugged, your first thought should be creating an outhouse for redundancy? When a storm happens and your power gets knocked out, do you petition your city council to fund that weather manipulation device Dr. Earthcracker's been planning? No, of course we don't; we understand that these things happen, we suck it up and try to convince my wrinkled old wife that there's nothing else to do in the dark but put out for once in a decade.
For some reason, we dislike power outages but understand that they happen. Ditto for bad weather conditions; we think it sucks when the snow makes roads impassible, and that it takes cleanup crews a while to get things sorted, but do you see anyone writing articles with titles like "Roads: Are they up to the task?" or "Mayor says flying road alternatives under consideration," do you? No, because that would be idiotic.
Are cloud offerings perfect? Crap no. Do they have 100% uptime? No. Does what they offer more than compensate for the occasional service outage? Yes, because you can get all of the information in human history while walking down the street and watching your dog poop. And these things are more reliable than your power at home, despite the fact that they're significantly more complicated. Lookit, you bastards: you're getting gigabytes of data sent to you through the air any time of day, for as long as you want, and you're complaining that there's only a 99.99% uptime? My urethra doesn't even work that well.
It’s still mind-boggling to me that a single point of failure, caused during a storm, can bring services like these down to their knees. A lot of people pay for Netflix, which makes its situation completely different from that of Instagram or Pinterest. Whenever you are charged for a service, you have a right to know what happened, why it happened and be told that it won’t happen again.
Yeah, Drew, it sucks that a single point of failure can bring services to their knees, but the more you learn about any of these things, the more amazed you should be that they work at all. Goddamn photons get sent over a piece of metal in America and turned into Traci Lords' nipple in my house. And they do this all the time! Constantly! It's a goddamn miracle!
But, seriously, customers have a right to be told it won't happen again? Are you high? Amazon can try to fix the cascade issue that caused the service outage, and Netflix and other services can improve their load-balancing so they aren't as dependant on any one link in the chain, but there will always be a circumstance under which the system will fail. Making anything 100% failproof is impossible, but we don't spend all of our time talking about replacing everything.
Imagine this complaint pointed at, say, the manufacturers of my car:
It's mindboggling to me that something as simple as rain can decrease the traction of my wheels on the road. I pay for this car, so it's reasonable that I be told that the problem will never happen again, because until Ford can magically keep the road from getting wet, cars are a failure, and I'm going to invest in those newfangled whirligigs I keep hearing so much about.