June 15, 2012, 1:06 PM

Amazon Web Services suffers outages

Partial outages disrupt Amazon’s Internet-hosted database and computing services.

Lead Photo

Amazon Web Services LLC, a unit of Amazon.com Inc. that provides web site operators, including online retailers, with “cloud” or Internet-based services such as data storage, computing capacity and databases, reported problems with making some web services available last night and earlier today in Northern Virginia.

Amazon started reporting performance problems at about 9 p.m. Pacific time yesterday, with some issues continuing early this morning. The problems caused interruptions in Amazon’s EC2, or Elastic Computing Cloud, pay-as-you-go computing capacity service, and RDS, or Relational Database Service.

By early this morning, Amazon said most issues had been resolved, but noted that it was still trying to determine what went wrong. “We will be following up here with the root cause of this event,” Amazon Web Services said today on its “Service Health Dashboard” at status.aws.amazon.com.

Outages at web services operations that support things like computing capacity and relational databases can have a big impact on online retailers whether or not they directly subscribe to such services, says Brian Walker, vice president and technology analyst at Forrester Research Inc. That’s because these services often support the operations of third-party vendors that provide technology to e-commerce sites, he says.

“Amazon has a role in roughly a quarter of all e-commerce sites by serving content or functionality from its Internet environment, often hosted there by third-party vendors selling site tools, content, or features to e-commerce sites,” he says. “Many e-commerce sites may be largely unaware of the degree to which they are dependent on Amazon infrastructure because it is masked by vendors with software-as-a-service or Internet hosted solutions reliant on Amazon. Many sites or features on those sites would be affected by downtime at Amazon Web Services.”

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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