Amazon Web Services (AWS) Outage Causes Chaos

AWS disruption leaves parcels undelivered, popular websites and devices offline

An outage in Amazon Web Services (AWS)—the cloud computing unit of, Inc. (AMZN)—caused a raft of backlogs at the e-commerce giant's warehouses Tuesday, Dec. 7, and took down popular websites and apps, including Google, Disney Plus, Venmo, DoorDash, Inc. (DASH), Spotify Technology S.A. (SPOT), Slack, and app-based trading firm Robinhood Markets, Inc. (HOOD).

Frequently visited government websites, such as My Social Security—a portal for online accounts accessing the U..S Social Security Administration—also reported disruptions that started around 10:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Home smart devices weren't spared either. AWS customers reported issues with internet of things (IoT) connected services and devices, such as Alexa, Ring security cameras, and iRobot vacuum cleaners.

Key Takeaways

  • An hours-long AWS outage took down popular websites, disrupted smart devices, and caused delivery delays at Amazon warehouses.
  • The outage comes at one of the busiest times of the year and caused widespread disruption as many people continue to work and study from home during the pandemic.
  • Prominent companies and devices affected include Google, Disney Plus, Venmo, DoorDash, Spotify, Alexa, Ring, and trading-based app Robinhood.
  • AWS said that it had identified the root cause of the issue, which has caused API console issues, primarily affecting the East Coast.
  • Earlier Tuesday, outage tracking website showed more than 24,000 reported issues with AWS.

AWS, the largest cloud-computing provider in the U.S., later confirmed that the outages had primarily affected the East Coast region, adding that it had identified the root cause of the problem. "We have identified the root cause of the issue causing service application programming interface (API) and console issues in the US-EAST-1 Region and are starting to see some signs of recovery," read a notice on the AWS status webpage. However, the company did not provide an estimated recovery time for when its services would be fully restored.

Earlier Tuesday, outage tracking website showed more than 24,000 reported issues with AWS. However, reports had declined below 3,500 by late afternoon.

An application programming interface (API) is a set of programming code that queries data, parses responses, and sends instructions between one software platform and another. APIs are used extensively in providing data services across a range of fields and contexts.

Outages Not Uncommon

Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that major cloud platforms experience significant outages once per quarter every year. However, given that AWS controls about 90% of the cloud infrastructure market and many people continue to work and study from home through the pandemic, the disruption was widely felt. "These guys have almost become too big to fail. Large parts of our day-to-day lives are predicated on activities that run on these cloud platforms," Gartner vice president Sid Nag told The Wall Street Journal.

In the second quarter of 2021, AWS brought in a record $14.8 billion in net sales, accounting for just over 13% of Amazon's total net sales.

The outage comes just several months after social media giant Meta Platforms, Inc.'s (FB) services went offline due to networking issues, affecting some of its most widely used apps, including WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at the network intelligence firm Kentik Inc., told the Associated Press that he doesn't believe malicious activity caused the downtime. Over the past 12 months, Amazon has experienced 27 outages, according to reviewing tool website ToolTester.

Despite the outage, Amazon shares held on to early session gains, closing 2.8% higher Tuesday afternoon.

Article Sources
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  2. Wall Street Journal. "Amazon Web Services Takes Businesses, Services Offline."

  3. Investopedia. "What is Amazon Web Services and Why is it So Successful?"

  4. Reuters, "Amazon Cloud Outage Hits Major Websites, Streaming Apps."

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