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Lightning strikes Amazon cloud (honest)

The dangers of sky-high computing

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Amazon's cloud was struck by lightning earlier this week. And that's the truth.

On Wednesday evening at about 6:30pm Pacific time, some Amazon cloud sitters saw their floating servers disappear - and yes, the company blamed the temporary outage on a lightning strike.

According to a web post from the company, the strike zapped a power distribution unit in one of its data centers, taking out server instances in one - and only one - Availability Zone. Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) serves up on-demand processing power from two separate geographic locations - the US and Europe - and each geographic region is split into multiple zones designed never to vanish at the same time.

"A lightning storm caused damage to a single Power Distribution Unit (PDU) in a single Availability Zone," the company said in a web post at 7:33pm. "While most instances were unaffected, a set of racks does not currently have power, so the instances on those racks are down."

At 9:26, Amazon said power had been restored and the affected server instances were beginning to recover. By 1:20am, the company said the problem had been fully resolved.

While Amazon was correcting the problem, it told customers they had the option of launching new server instances to replace those that went down. But customers were also able to wait for their original instances to come back up after power was restored to the hardware in question.

This was a relatively minor issue compared to the two major outages Amazon's cloud suffered in October 2007 and February 2008. And it's nowhere near as amusing as the time an engineer accidentally deleted Flexiscale's infrastructure cloud. Well, not nearly as amusing except for the lightning bit. ®

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