Earlier this month, Amazon held its annual Prime Day. It’s a day when thousands of Amazon Prime customers come together on the Amazon website to pick through the hundreds of bargains being offered by the shopping site.

It’s supposed to be a major revenue day of course, and at least on some level, it’s also a day where Amazon can flex its cloud muscles. After all, who can handle temporary scaling issues better than Amazon, the premiere cloud infrastructure vendor on the planet?

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Prime Day. It turned out that the site couldn’t keep up with demand. Now mind you, scaling to deal with increased demand is a primary use case for cloud computing, and is a big selling point, but perhaps even Amazon didn’t have the capacity to keep up with the kind of scale required on Prime Day.

Oddly, according to documents obtained by news site, CNBC, the company couldn’t generate enough servers to keep up with the traffic onslaught they were experiencing. According to these documents, they said stuff like “Currently out of capacity for scaling” and “Looking at scavenging hardware.” This is not the kind of response to a scaling crisis you would expect from a company that is after all built to scale, and sells those services to others.

Amazon couldn’t have been surprised by the surge. It puts all these things on sale, precisely because it expects a stampede to its website to take advantage of the deals, yet it ran into the very kind of problems it has designed systems to prevent.

What does it mean for you?

If a company who helped invent the idea of scaling in the cloud can’t keep up with this kind of demand, it’s a little daunting to consider what it means for mere mortals. Well, for starters, you aren’t Amazon and chances are you’ll never come close to the demand they encountered on Prime Day. So take some comfort in that.

MSPs and other companies who help small-to-medium sized businesses deal with their transition to the cloud or manage their day-to-day usage probably don’t have to worry about it either. This kind of traffic just doesn’t come around that often unless you’re a retailer on Black Friday, a media site on election night, or a developer that just released a hot game.

Still it is undeniably disconcerting when Amazon fails to keep up with demand, regardless of the scale it had to deal with. If Amazon ever decides to release a public post-mortem, it will be interesting to see what happened. Just take heart that there is no fool-proof system, and even a web scale company like Amazon can lose sight of their requirements on a big day.

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Photo:  dennizn / Shutterstock. 

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

One Comment

  1. Have there been any reports of attacks on Amazon on Prime Day by d-bags running bot nets trying to take advantage of the onslaught?

    Reply

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