Amazon’s cloud-service network suffered a major outage Tuesday, the company said, disrupting access to many popular sites. The service provides remote computing services to many governments, universities and companies, including News4JAX and The Associated Press.
For hours, News4JAX was unable to post new stories online, but service began to be restored about 5 p.m.
A local teacher also told News4JAX that a lot of the applications that students use in class were not working because of the outage and she had to work around it.
“We weren’t able to get on any of our applications,” said Shawnda Riuo, a teacher for the Clay County school district. “I didn’t even realize until today how much this impacts us.”
Riuo says her school uses Achieve3000 and i-Ready Diagnostic, which she says both use Amazon Web Services.
“Our kids weren’t able to be provided with some of the instruction they were to receive, as well as finish up assignments,” Riuo said.
Roughly five hours after numerous companies and other organizations began reporting issues with Amazon Web Services, the company said in a post on the AWS status page that it had “mitigated” the underlying problem responsible for the outage. Shortly thereafter, it reported that “many services have already recovered” but noted that others were still working toward full recovery.
The issue primarily affected Amazon web services in the eastern U.S., it said. The company has not disclosed any additional details about the problem besides noting that it had also affected its ability to publish status updates.
Problems began midmorning on the U.S. East Coast, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence firm. Customers trying to book or change trips with Delta Air Lines were having trouble connecting to the airline. “Delta is working quickly to restore functionality to our AWS-supported phone lines,” said spokesperson Morgan Durrant. The airline apologized and encouraged customers to use its website or mobile app instead.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it switched to West Coast servers after some airport-based systems were affected by the outage. Customers were still reporting outages to DownDetector, a popular clearinghouse for user outage reports, more than three hours after they started. Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said there were no major disruptions to flights.
Toyota spokesperson Scott Vazin said the company’s U.S. East Region for dealer services went down. The company has apps that process dealer warranty claims and other services, over 20 of which were affected.
Also according to DownDetector, people trying to use Instacart, Venmo, Kindle, Roku, and Disney+ reported issues. The McDonald’s app was also down. But the airlines American, United, Alaska and JetBlue were unaffected. Kentik saw a 26% drop in traffic to Netflix, among major web-based services affected by the outage.
Madory said he did not believe the outage was anything nefarious. He said a recent cluster of outages at providers that host major websites reflects how the networking industry has evolved.
“More and more these outages end up being the product of automation and centralization of administration,” he said. “This ends up leading to outages that are hard to completely avoid due to operational complexity but are very impactful when they happen.”
Chris Hamer, an internet network security consultant, explained his guess as to why this outage occurred.
“In most cases, when there’s a network failure of this scale, it’s usually because they were implementing some form of infrastructure change that went wrong, is the easiest way to say it,” Hamer said. “They don’t do upgrades to production equipment until it’s been tested and retested.”
Technologist and public data access activist Carl Malamud said the outage highlights just how badly the internet’s original design goal — to be a distributed network with no central point of failure, making it resilient to mass disasters such as nuclear attack — has been warped by Big Tech.
“When we put everything in one place, be it Amazon’s cloud or Facebook’s monolith, we’re violating that fundamental principle,” said Malamud, who developed the internet’s first radio station and later put a vital U.S. Security and Exchange Commission database online. “We saw that when Facebook became the instrument of a massive disinformation campaign, we just saw that today with the Amazon failure.”
It was unclear how, or whether, the outage was affecting the federal government. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in an email response to questions that it was working with Amazon “to understand any potential impacts this outage may have for federal agencies or other partners.”