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Does the cloud work in a snowstorm?

January 16, 2013

netflix down depressedBased on a survey of more than 1,000 Americans in August 2012 by Wakefield Research, 51 percent of respondents aren’t so sure. They believe weather affects the cloud. The survey went on to suggest many of my fellow Americans don’t think they use the cloud, even though they use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, and Netflix streaming… Whether they knew it or not, many of these cloud users suffered greatly when Netflix and other cloud services went down on Christmas Eve. Netflix quickly, well, allegedly, threw their cloud provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS) under the bus with this tweet:

“Netflix is down for some customers this Christmas Eve, thanks to an outage of some of Amazon’s cloud infrastructure.”

noflixNow even though Amazon Instant Video is a competitor of Netflix, and the problem was Amazon’s, the tweet was simply bad form. It does though, bring to light the tricky partnerships in the cloud, and reminded me of a similar situation with our own cloud services business. Toward the end of our fiscal year in September, we were trying to close a big cloud services deal, and wanted just the right cloud customer to speak with the prospect. In my office, the following conversation took place:

Me: “Hey, what about __________ (big cloud customer)?”
Cloud guy: “They’re down.”
Me: “What?!”
Cloud guy: “Yeah, but it’s a _________ (our cloud infrastructure provider) problem. They’re working on it.
Me: “It’s our customer. It’s our problem.”
Cloud guy: “Well, yeah.”

Yeah. The timing was bad on that one, but the more important issue is taking ownership of the customer problem. To Netflix customers, Netflix was down, not Amazon. Same for our customer.

All that said, on average, most major cloud provider services are very reliable, and typically meet or exceed a 99.9% Service Level Agreement for uptime, including Kronos. It’s a myth that cloud reliability is worse than on-premise systems. Still, the cloud goes down. It’s made of servers and storage and routers and wires and networks and electricity and code and… well, humans. Stuff happens, but that won’t help me next time (Play)Joyce can’t watch Downton Abbey.

There’s no free PaaS for not delivering.

Note: I’m a customer of both Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and I think they’re both fantastic. I just wish we could stream Amazon Instant Video over our Wii. Oh, wait. Now we can! Sweet!

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