Amazon Says ‘Unexpected Behavior’ from Automated Processes Caused Huge Cloud Outages

Amazon.com Inc. said automated processes in its cloud computing business caused cascading outages across the internet this week, affecting everything from Disney amusement parks and Netflix videos to robot vacuums and Adele ticket sales.

In a statement Friday, Amazon said the problem began Dec. 7 when an automated computer program — designed to make its network more reliable — ended up causing a “large number” of its systems to unexpectedly behave strangely. That, in turn, created a surge of activity on Amazon’s networks, ultimately preventing users from accessing some of its cloud services.

“Basically, a bad piece of code was executed automatically and it caused a snowball effect,” Forrester analyst Brent Ellis said. The outage persisted “because their internal controls and monitoring systems were taken offline by the storm of traffic caused by the original problem.”

Amazon explained the failure in a highly technical statement posted online. The problems began about 10:30 a.m. New York time on Dec. 7 and lasted several hours before Amazon managed to fix the problem. In the meantime, social media lit up with complaints from consumers angered that their smart home gadgetry and other internet-connected services had suddenly ceased to work.

Some experts said the explanation doesn’t help users fully understand what went wrong.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Spencer Soper and Jack Gillum

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