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AWS reliability outweighs risk of cloud outages

Enterprises will likely remain in the public cloud despite the occasional disruption, as they stand to earn a substantial return on investment.

The latest AWS outage has generated a new round of debate regarding the reliability of cloud services. Yet, AWS's growth hasn't slowed. Instead, a growing number of large and small organizations are using AWS offerings because of the measurable business benefits they can attain.

Once again, the outages centered around services delivered from Amazon Web Services' (AWS) Northern Virginia area data centers -- its US-EAST-1 region. Service was disrupted for six to eight hours and affected many of AWS' biggest users, including Netflix, Tinder, Airbnb and IMDB. Customers of these services were similarly affected until companies were able to restore services.

Despite the inconvenience and all the press attention, you'd be hard-pressed to find corporate customers or consumer end users who are so fed up with the AWS outage that they would abandon their cloud services. Instead, more corporate customers, along with their consumer end users, recognize that service disruptions are inevitable and the benefits they derive from AWS far outweigh the risks associated with its cloud services.

AWS gained a lot of its initial success by serving the startup community, which was happy to use the low-cost cloud services to reduce upfront costs of launching new businesses and ongoing costs of scaling their operations. AWS reliability has now made the cloud provider an equally attractive alternative for enterprises seeking to reduce their costs and gain greater agility.

AWS reliability trumps other options

A recent International Data Corporation (IDC) report about the business value of AWS shows that a growing number of companies is not only adopting AWS cloud services, but remaining loyal despite periodic service disruptions. IDC interviewed 10 enterprise organizations from a variety of industries about how they are using AWS' capabilities. The organizations boasted an average of 4,099 employees and support 41 business applications with AWS offerings, including an average of 1,366 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud virtual servers.

While the general perception is that AWS is best suited for testing new applications, responding to seasonal workload fluctuations, or storing static data, the majority of the respondents to IDC's survey reported they use AWS for customer- or constituent-facing applications, and they rated these applications as being very critical (4.7 out of 5 on average -- with 5 being most critical). They also use AWS for both steady-state and variable workloads.

According to the study, "Amazon customers will capture five-year business benefits worth over $1.5 million per application they are running in the AWS environment, and earn a return on their investment in AWS of 560%." These benefits fall into four areas:

  1. Business productivity
  2. Risk mitigation -- user productivity
  3. IT staff productivity
  4. IT infrastructure cost reductions

Based on respondents, "these organizations will achieve business benefits worth an annual average of $446,131 per application being run in the AWS environment over five years, or $18.2 million per organization," IDC projects.

It's easy to see why more organizations are migrating workloads to AWS and staying with their cloud services -- despite the downtime risks. However, the IDC report also found that there are substantially fewer downtime risks with AWS than respondents experienced within their own on-premises operations or elsewhere. Survey respondents experienced 10.6 unplanned downtime instances per year without AWS and only 2.1 with AWS, a 79.8% improvement. These organizations also reduced the number of productive hours lost per year, per user from 3.0 to 0.5 using AWS, or an 81.7% improvement.

AWS reliability makes a convincing argument in favor of moving workloads to the Amazon cloud and sticking with the services -- regardless of the occasional outage. It's no wonder AWS re:Invent 2015 attendance is expected to jump about 30% with more than half of attendees coming from large-scale enterprises.

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