Edmodo and the Amazon Web Services Outage

If I ran an edtech company the first thing that I'd do is move all of our infrastructure to Amazon's Web Services (AWS).

October 22, 2012

If I ran an edtech company the first thing that I'd do is move all of our infrastructure to Amazon's Web Services (AWS). Amazon RDS, Amazon Route 53, Amazon S3, Amazon CloudWatch, and Amazon CloudfFont.

I believe that Amazon does infrastructure better than I could do it.  I'd want to spend my time and resources on building solutions and platforms around my customers needs.  Close to the market.  Agile.  Creative.  With a core competency in learning, not in databases and web servers.

So should today's Amazon Web Services outages give us any pause?  

This afternoon the folks from Edmodo tweeted:

"@edmodo:  Update:The site is still down.This is a server issue related to Amazon and we will update as soon as we have more info."

Reading CNET today we hear about how the "Amazon cloud outage impacts Reddit, Airbnb, Flipboard

Edmodo was recently featured in an Amazon Web Services Case Study

One of the reason that Edmodo went with AWS is "High Availability".

"High availability: The Multi-Availability Zone (Multi-AZ) deployments for Amazon RDS provide data center replication for disaster recovery. Edmodo uses all of its production databases in the Multi-AZ deployment. “Multi-AZ—it just works”, says Jack. “I have managed a MySQL multi-master deployment in the past, and it was high maintenance. Now, I never even think about our high availability.”

Let me be clear.  I'm a big fan of Edmodo.  I've not written about Edmodo yet as the platform is not primarily intended for higher ed.  The Edmodo site (the part that is not down now that I can get to), says that the platform has connect fore than 13 million teachers and students globally (although not today).   If you have not seen Edmodo, the platform:

"….provides teachers and students a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational applications, and access homework, grades, class discussions and notifications." 

I learned about Edmodo at my daughter's 10th grade open house. Many of her teachers have been using Edmodo and loving it.  My  daughter likes Edmodo as well, claiming that it is much easier to use than the Moodle site she used in middle school (back in the day!).  Today while driving to soccer practice she told me how Edmodo was down, and that she and her classmates couldn't get their assignments or materials.

My guess is that Edmodo is not the only EDU platform that runs on Amazon Web Services. Who else has been impacted?

The lesson of this outage should not be not to go with Amazon Web Services, or other cloud providers. Every web application, every database, every technology, will have unplanned and unscheduled downtime.  Host it locally or consume it as a service.  At some point or another it is going to break.

The real lesson of this outage is that we should expect outages. 

We should plan how and when we are going to communicate when things stop working.  We should put in place redundancies and backups to the extent possible.  We should commit to thoroughness and transparency when investigating and sharing the root causes of the unplanned outage.  

And we should realize that some future outage will be much worse than anything we are experiencing today.


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