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Amazon Web Services Disruption Knocks Customer Sites Offline

Jeff Bezos, chairman and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., speaks during an interview in Cupertino, California, on Oct. 6, 2009. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Jeff Bezos, chairman and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., speaks during an interview in Cupertino, California, on Oct. 6, 2009. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

April 21 (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s Internet-based computing services, used by thousands of business customers to run their Web pages and store data, crashed this morning and knocked sites across the U.S. offline.

Amazon Web Services servers in northern Virginia suffered outages beginning at about 5 a.m. local time, affecting a portion of U.S. customers, the Seattle-based company said. Twelve hours later, Amazon said all but one zone in the U.S. had been restored.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has billed its cloud-computing services as a cheap and safe way for businesses to outsource their data centers. The outage is evidence that companies can’t wholly rely on cloud services to handle important functions, said Vanessa Alvarez, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc.

“Customers need to start asking tough questions and not assume everything will be taken care of in the cloud, because it will not,” Alvarez said. “They shouldn’t be counting on a cloud service provider like Amazon to provide disaster recovery.”

Location-based mobile service Foursquare, question-and-answer site Formspring.me, and Reddit.com, a news aggregator owned by Conde Nast Publications Ltd., all blamed the outage for taking down their sites. Amazon’s cloud customers also include Netflix Inc., Eli Lilly & Co. and Internet-gaming company Zynga Inc. The service accounts for about 2 percent of its revenue, according to Barclays Capital.

Heroku Outage

The outage also crashed sites of companies that help other businesses build tools to run in Amazon’s cloud. Salesforce.com Inc.’s Heroku unit has been down for more than eight hours. Heroku helps companies such as Best Buy Co. and Comcast Corp. build mobile and social-networking applications that are powered by Amazon’s services.

Companies use Amazon Web Services to host their sites and rely on it when they expect bursts of visitors, such as nighttime movie watching on Netflix. Rivals to Amazon’s service include Microsoft Corp. and Rackspace Hosting Inc.

Amazon rose $2.02 to $185.89 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have climbed 3.3 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Galante in San Francisco at jgalante3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net.

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