Amazon didn’t, quite, break the Internet Tuesday but a more than four-hour problem at one of the main storage systems for its AWS cloud computing company did cause headaches for hundreds of thousands of websites across the United States.
A big portion of Amazon Web Services’ Amazon S3 system went offline Tuesday afternoon, a service used by 148,213 sites according to SimilarTech.
The outage appeared to have begun around 12:35 pm ET, according to Catchpoint Systems, a digital experience monitoring company. It involved a storage system for Amazon’s S3 service on the east coast, US-EAST-1. Operations were fully recovered by 4:49 pm ET, Amazon said.
That system was the first of what now are three AWS regions in the United States. It is still the largest and is also where AWS rolls out new features, “so it’s disproportionately big,” said Lydia Leong, a cloud analyst with Gartner.
AWS provides cloud-based storage and web services for companies so they don’t have to build their own server farms, allowing them to rapidly deploy computing power without having to invest in infrastructure. For example, a business might store its video or images or databases on an AWS server and access it via the Internet.
Companies that use AWS include Pinterest, Airbnb, Netflix, Slack, Buzzfeed, Spotify and some Gannett systems. While not all were affected by the outage, some experienced slowdowns.
AWS began as a profitable sideline to Amazon’s main online sales business but has since grown to become the major player in the arena as well as a major money-maker in its own right for Amazon. In the fourth quarter of 2016 the division accounted for 8% of Amazon’s total revenue.
“This is a pretty big outage,” said Dave Bartoletti, a cloud analyst with Forrester. “AWS had not had a lot of outages and when they happen, they’re famous. People still talk about the one in September of 2015 that lasted five hours,” he said.
S3 has “north of three to four trillion pieces of data stored in it,” Bartoletti said.