Amazon cloud glitch knocks out popular websites

Server outage hits sites Reddit, Quora and Foursquare hard

Popular websites, including like Quora and Reddit, have been hampered or totally knocked out today because of server problems in Amazon.com's data center that handles the company's Web hosting services.

Amazon began reporting trouble on its Service Health Dashboard about 5 a.m. Eastern today. At 5:16 a.m., the site reported connectivity issues that were affecting its Relational Database Service, which is used to manage a relational database in the cloud, across multiple zones in the eastern U.S.

Amazon also reported problems with its EC2, or Elastic Compute Cloud, a service that provides pay-as-you-go compute capacity in the cloud. The company also reported issues with its EBS, or Elastic Block Storage, which is storage related to the EC2 service.

"A networking event early this morning triggered a large amount of re-mirroring of EBS volumes in US-EAST-1," Amazon reported at 11:54 a.m. Eastern today. "This re-mirroring created a shortage of capacity in one of the US-EAST-1 Availability Zones, which impacted new EBS volume creation as well as the pace with which we could re-mirror and recover affected EBS volumes."

The company also said one of its internal control planes for EBS has become overloaded so it's difficult to create new EBS volumes and EBS-backed instances.

"We are working as quickly as possible to add capacity to that one Availability Zone to speed up the re-mirroring, and working to restore the control plane issue," the company added. "We're starting to see progress on these efforts, but are not there yet. We will continue to provide updates when we have them."

The problem has had some widespread effects, especially for some popular Web 2.0 sites.

A note to users on the Quora website today read, "We're currently having an unexpected outage, and are working to get the site back up as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience."

HootSuite and Foursquare also have been affected, along with Reddit, which posted a note to users saying, "Amazon is currently experiencing a degradation. They are working on it. We are still waiting on them to get to our volumes. Sorry."

Some users are venting their frustrations with Amazon and the cloud on Twitter. "Amazon's Eastern US cluster is still down, and some of our data with it. So much for the reliability of cloud services," tweeted @Thierry_G. And @steve_dine tweeted, "Amazon still down for EBS instances and volumes. Getting ready to fire up our GoGrid backup servers."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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