Yesterday was marked with another major cloud outage. Amazon Web Services experienced a single availability zone issue in the US-East-1 region. As with all major cloud provider outages, I get the opportunity to speak to customers affected by the outage or customers considering broader public cloud adoption.
One question was asked of me in multiple conversations: Does US-East-1 have systemic design and availability issues?
This question stems from the fact that most (but not all) AWS issues have occurred in the US-East-1 region. Unfortunately the answer is not a definitive yes or a no, but let me elaborate.
US-East-1 (also simply referred to as US-East) is the oldest (i.e., original) and substantially largest AWS region. It is unclear exactly how much larger US-East-1 is from other regions such as US-West or EU-West, but substantial is probably an understatement. In the July 2, 2012 power outage post mortem, AWS stated that US-East-1 is composed of more than 10 data centers.
US-East-1 is also the cheapest and default region for many deployments. Therefore, the scale and impact of US-East-1 is quantitatively larger than other AWS regions.
So while US-East-1 may not have systemic design and availability issues, it is fair to say that US-East-1 pushes the limits in terms of scale, capacity, stress on software logic, distribution, and complexity. While AWS does not deliberately use US-East-1 as a test bed or trial ground, the unfortunate results of it being so much larger than the other regions is that US-East-1 by default becomes that trial ground.
Which leads to the basis of the question in the title of this blog: Are customers better off by moving to other AWS Regions (e.g., US-West, EU-West, etc…)? Unfortunately the answer may be yes. It might be beneficial to not be in the biggest AWS pond where scale and complexity issues first occur. The advantage of this is that fixes and optimizations can be uncovered in US-East-1 and deployed to the region you reside in before that region gets to the same size/scale.
However, perhaps you must be in US-East-1 for location requirements, price constraints, or a number of other reasons. But if you don’t have an affinity to the east coast of the United States, and if you can tolerate slightly higher prices in another region, perhaps it is time to move west AWS cloud customers.
I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.