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AI / Alexa / Amazon

When AWS Goes Down, So Does Your Smart Home

Last night, I felt like I had taken a time train back to the stone ages. Each night around bedtime, I tell Alexa to do certain things for me that most people would just race around the house to accomplish to finalize the day. And, I end the routine by saying “Alexa, turn off Rod’s light.” My bedside lamp turns off and Alexa responds, “Okay.” It’s like Alexa tucks me in at night. Its become a comforting feeling. That last step means my day is finally over and I can rest and relax. Some days its more glorious than others, for sure, but its always a pleasure.

But, last night, due to a late-day Amazon AWS outage (7:47 PM PDT We are investigating issues in AWS Lambda’s capacity management subsystem that are causing increased API error rates and latencies in the US-EAST-1 Region), I had to resort to doing actual work to get to bed. I had to turn out my own light and tuck myself in. While not horrible, it did mix up my routine – and I didn’t like it. The issues are resolved now, but I feel like yesterday was open-ended. Like the day didn’t actually end because my routine was thrown off.

But, like many of you, that’s where I’ve come. As I continue to Alexa-ize my house the number of menial tasks I allow Alexa to just take care of are increasing. When the Internet was new (some of you remember that) and the power went out, we’d just go read a book by candlelight or tell stories to each other. But, as time progressed we lost the will to do that. After a time, when the power went out, we’d get antsy, wondering why the power company hadn’t texted an update yet. Where I live, the power goes out more than normal places due to an aging infrastructure, so I’ve gone as far as to ensure that I have movies downloaded on my tablet so we’ll have something to do. That’s pretty bad isn’t it.

Now, though, we’re so reliant on just specific pieces of the Internet, when even a small segment or service (like AWS) goes down, we’re facing the same situation. Last night when AWS was down, my entire house was inoperative. Why do we continually put our trust in something we know will fail? And why, when those things fail us, do we act like we never saw it coming?

The eye-opening thing with AWS is that I don’t pay for it. Amazon provides it to Alexa customers as a free, backend service. I can’t beat down Amazon’s door and request a refund for the outage because my Smart Home stopped working at bedtime.

Amazon is not the only culprit in failure. Pieces of Microsoft’s Azure go down periodically. Heck, Skype is just now emerging from a three-day outage. You rarely hear about Google’s Cloud outages (because it affects a lesser number) but they happen.

Modernizing your life can have a serious effect – particularly when you fully replace normal, everyday tasks with automation technology. I often shake my head to know that our kids don’t have to learn cursive in school anymore and the majority of youngsters don’t even know how to tie shoes anymore – thanks to the invention of Velcro. We’re losing skills as we embrace technology, and that’s a bit sad.


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A community professional, keynoter, and evangelist who has driven social media and marketing strategies, editorial successes, delivered customer successes and built some of the largest and longest-running online communities. Rod has created, managed and grown small, medium, and mega-sized conferences; run entire editorial teams to deliver record traffic and market leadership; as product manager, directed the success of hundreds of product releases; supported sales and marketing to ensure customer success; developed, run and sold businesses; written thousands of technical articles, white papers, case studies, and technical documentation; hosted and delivered hundreds of attendance shattering webinars and virtual tradeshows; and delivered keynote speeches and sessions at a wide variety of events including conferences, webinars, events, and user groups.

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