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Major outage hits Amazon Web Services; many sites affected

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 7, 2021

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
Associated Press

Amazon Web Services suffered a major outage Tuesday, the company said, disrupting access to many popular sites.

The company provides cloud computing services to many governments, universities and companies, including the Associated Press.

Amazon said in a post an hour after the outage began that it had identified the root cause and was “actively working towards recovery.” The issue primarily affected its services in the Eastern U.S., it said. It did not disclose any additional details about the cause.

Amazon later updated the dashboard to note that the company was “starting to see some signs of recovery. We do not have an ETA for full recovery at this time.”

The outage also affected Amazon’s ability to provide status updates, it said.

Problems began midmorning on the U.S. East Coast, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc, a network intelligence firm. “AWS is the biggest cloud provider and us-east-1 is their biggest data center, so any disruption there has big impacts to many popular websites and other internet services,” he said.

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.

Also according to DownDetector, people trying to use Instacart, Venmo, Kindle, Roku, and Disney+ have reported issues. The McDonald’s app was also down. But the airlines American, United, Alaska and JetBlue were unaffected.

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.

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.”

Kentik saw a 26% drop in traffic to Netflix, among major web-based services affected by the outage, Madory said.

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.”

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