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Amazon Web Services recovers from partial outage

Parts of Amazon Web Services were hit by an outage in a North Virginia data center, with many popular Web sites clocking off the Web for the evening.

Parts of Amazon Web Services (AWS) suffered an outage on Thursday that led to a spread of high-profile sites clocking off the Web for the evening.

Amazon was quick to update its cloud status -- its first update at 8:50 p.m. PT -- stating the problems were due to a power outage in a Virginia data center.

At 3:26 a.m. PT Friday, the company said that the problem had been resolved and that service was again operating normally. It also advised: "Customers with impaired volumes may still need to follow the instructions above to recover their individual EC2 and EBS resources. We will be following up here with the root cause of this event."

That data center is the same one that forced Quora, Foursquare and other major Web sites to crumble in April 2011 as the cloud infrastructure began to fall from the sky. Since last year's outage, a detailed post-mortem noted the need for greater transparency and better communication with its customers.

Amazon's RDS service also fell down, but has since recovered from a multi-availability zone failure. However, a "small number of [database] instances remain unavailable" at 1:09 a.m. PT.

Customers were quick to vent their frustration on Twitter, which thankfully isn't hosted by the AWS service.

Sites like Quora (it got hit again, bless it) and Hipchat, along with Heroku -- a division of Salesforce -- and leading social movement Pinterest and file-hosting site Dropbox hit the stumbling block as a result of the outage.

It's a case of putting all of the Web's eggs all in the same basket. Or, at least in one case, all the tofu in one food truck. (I think he was kidding.)

Amazon Web Service, when it works --and give it credit, we're talking the very vast majority of the time -- it works well. Amazon says it is "committed" to a 99.95 percent uptime, but other smaller, nimbler companies, as you might expect, offer a 99.99 percent uptime.

It doesn't mean that Amazon's cloud service will fall down on average 7 minutes a month, but it doesn't help when customers start calling to ask why their service is down, only to reassured that "most of the time it's up."

Earlier this week, Amazon announced its S3 online storage service hit the 1 trillion object milestone mark, equating to roughly 140 objects per person for everyone on the planet.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Amazon Web Services suffers partial outage."