Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Day the Cloud Died

Today (June 25th 2009) was one of those rare days that makes you remember why elasticity is so important when architecting your web application stack.

In case you don't follow the news or twittersphere, around noon eastern time came news that everyone's favorite Charlies Angel "Farrah Fawcett" had died, which resulted in a minor news flurry. Then later in the afternoon a much more major web storm erupted when news of Michael Jackson's death hit the social web. Unexpedly Twitter had major scaling issusing dealing with the sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of tweets as Michael Jackson's death spread. But twitter wasn't alone.

According to TechCrunch, twitter wasn't the only site suffering. "Various reports had the AOL-owned TMZ, which broke the story, being down at multiple points throughout the ordeal. As a result, Perez Hilton’s hugely popular blog may have failed as people rushed there to try and confirm the news. Then it was the LATimes which had a report saying Jackson was only in a coma rather than dead, so people rushed there, and that site went down. (The LATimes eventually confirmed his passing.)"

Needless to say that the use case for elastic cloud computing was made particularly clear today. For major sites like the TMZ or the LAtimes this was particularly embarrassing.

Provisioning additional instances in Amazon EC2 as well as other cloud providers has become relatively easy. For most modern scalable applications the idea of having a "hot cloud standby" or a prebuilt virtual machine that is basically waiting in the wings would solve a lot of problems with very little over head, technical adjustment or cost associated.

There is no longer any good reason for a professional website property to go down because of load. Cloud computing provides an almost infinite supply of computing capacity, be it a infrastructure as a service or platform as a service or even a traditional CDN. To not have a cloud bursting strategy in the age of cloud computing isn't just wrong -- it's idiotic.

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