Amazon's hosted storage service hits bump

Performance glitches make some customers of Amazon's nascent Web service for storage grouchy.

Amazon's hosted storage services suffered technical glitches last week, mishaps that caused some early users to think twice about using the company's nascent Web services.

Last Thursday, customers of Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) started a discussion thread about problems in the service. Users of the service, which lets Web site owners contract with Amazon to store data, complained of slow service and error messages.

By Sunday, a representative from the Amazon Web Services business unit offered an explanation for the service degradation, which had been resolved. The representative blamed the problem on faulty hardware installed during an updgrade.

"The Amazon S3 team has been adding large amounts of hardware over the past several weeks in order to meet and stay ahead of high and rapidly increasing demand. Unfortunately, our most recent hardware order contained several substandard machines," the representative wrote.

Customers who reponded to the Amazon note appeared gratified to have an explanation. But before the problem was resolved, people voiced frustration with the drop in service levels. The storage service is supposed to operate 99.99 percent of the time.

"We've switched to using s3 in production and we have millions of files on their servers now. We're paying a LOT of money for this service and need it to be stable and reliable. I'm not looking forward to moving everything off s3 to something else, but if it's not reliable, that's what we'll need to do," one customer said before the problem was addressed and resolved.

The episode points to one of the pitfalls of the utility computing, where service providers offer hosted computing services over the Internet.

Hosted application provider Salesforce.com, for example, has suffered a few high-profile outages. The company has set up a program to notify customers of performance problems.

Amazon is building up its Web Services product line with the hope of establishing a large-scale business.

The problem with S3 last week is not the first time customers have complained of service issues.

In December last year, S3 had other performance problems, which appeared to have been resolved within a day.

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