netmagInterview

Amazon Web Services: Jeff Barr

Amazon Web Services consume more bandwidth than all of Amazon’s global sites combined. Evangelist Jeff Barr explains who’s using them and why they’ve become so popular with businesses of all sizes

.net: Why did Amazon decide to open up its web services in the first place?
JB: We spent over a decade building one of the world’s most reliable, scalable and cost-efficient web infrastructures. In that time we learned a great deal about how to both develop these services and run them. Amazon Web Services gives any software developer the keys to Amazon’s back-end infrastructure, which they can use to build and grow a business. This makes it possible for any company to reach the scale of major internet players such as Amazon.com, but without the expensive price tag.

.net: Who are they aimed at?
JB: When we started this business we imagined that smaller companies, particularly start-ups, would be the first to take advantage of our services. Now that our services have become more mature, we’re seeing larger companies take advantage of them as well. We thought that transition would take a couple of years, but we’re seeing that it’s happening a lot more quickly than we expected. It’s clear that even large companies don’t like dealing with the muck, so we’re happy to do it for them.

.net: What kind of technical knowledge do you need to use Amazon Web Services?
JB: These services are built for developers, so one needs to have some level of coding ability to use them. A number of powerful load management tools, high-level programming libraries and complete programming systems have also been built by members of our developer community.

.net: How many people are using Amazon Web Services, and who are they?
JB: We have over 370,000 registered developers ranging from start-ups like Ooyala and Animoto to large companies like The New York Times Company, NASDAQ and SanDisk to partners such as Red Hat and Sun Microsystems. Companies of all sizes can benefit from the reliability, scalability and low cost of Amazon Web Services.

.net: At the beginning of the year, the S3 storage service was hit by a major outage. Then in April it hit the EC2 cloud computing service. Why?
JB: In regards to S3, in one of our locations we started seeing elevated levels of authenticated requests from multiple users. This pushed the authentication service over its maximum capacity before we could finish putting new capacity in place. As well as processing authentication requests, the authentication service also performs account validation on every request Amazon S3 handles. This caused Amazon S3 to be unable to process any requests in that location. We took immediate action, improving our monitoring of the proportion of authenticated requests, further increasing our authentication service capacity and adding additional defensive measures around the authenticated calls.

In regards to EC2, we began a maintenance change with one of our redundant internet access points. Under normal circumstances, our network routing protocols automatically shift traffic away from these internet access points until a change is completed. In this case, a latent, incorrect configuration caused affected instances to route outbound traffic to the degraded internet access point. As a result, the outbound traffic routed via this access point was not successfully forwarded to the internet. Our monitoring correctly detected the initial loss of connectivity and the engineering teams were fully engaged within minutes.

As with any operational issue, our internal post mortem process helped us identify ways to prevent this sort of issue in the future and reduce our recovery time when the unexpected does happen.

.net: How do you see cloud computing developing in the future?
JB: Over the past two years, the Amazon Web Services platform has become increasingly robust and customer-friendly as we’ve listened to our developers about the services they’re using and innovated on their behalf. We’ve added numerous features to our services as a result of this ongoing feedback loop. We’re pleased by the number of businesses who are using the services.

.net: What’s your vision for Amazon Web Services?
JB: What AWS is doing is offering web scale computing services that free software developers and businesses from the burdens of launching and growing a successful web business.

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