#Amazongeddon II, The Force Stays Asleep, happened today. In other words a bunch of Amazon’s servers went down, resulting in a temporary interruption in Alexa Voice Service, other Amazon services, and an interruption or slowdown in service for lots of other sites whose software also resides on those servers. I’ve explained how to check Amazon server status before, but it seems like a good time to revisit the topic.
First things first: let me reassure you I’ve heard nothing about any kind of malicious attack here, it seems to be a good old fashioned case of technical difficulties. It’s important to remember that no piece of hardware or software, nor any human who works on or with them, can guarantee 100% infallibility and zero downtime. About the best anyone can hope for is a speedy resolution and restoration of data when problems do occur. Because they will. Today, Amazon had everything back to normal in 2.5 hours. Not bad.
Are Amazon’s Server(s) Down?
The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Service Health Dashboard is where Amazon lists current and recent status for all Amazon Web Services. Since it’s a free, publicly-available resource anyone with internet access can check current status at any time.
3/7/17 Update: The Dashboard may not show accurate status if there’s a problem with the server on which the Dashboard itself is hosted, which is what happened on 2/28/17 and is currently the case with further downtime that’s occurring as of this writing, at 9:50pm PST. Amazon is aware of this limitation and probably started working on a plan to address it after the 2/28/17 downtime incident, but it hasn’t been fixed yet.
Tap or click on images to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window. Note that while these screenshots are from 2015, I’ve verified they still accurately reflect the Dashboard. The only significant difference is that there’s now a button at the top of the screen allowing Dashboard visitors to access a more personalized snapshot.
The top section of the Dashboard lists every AWS service and shows current status. Note that you can even subscribe to status reports on specific services via RSS feed (red arrow in image above).
To clarify: Amazon does not list status for specific servers, probably because there could be many individual server “boxes” in use to support a single AWS service. This post references “servers” in the title because that’s how most people tend to think about uptime and downtime: in terms of individual servers, rather than in terms of a single service that’s supported by a multiple servers. The status dashboard cannot give you the status of individual servers on Amazon’s end, but it can give you status on services, and that’s really all that matters for purposes of this discussion.
The Current Status list pictured above will show you at a glance if any services are currently experiencing downtime or known issues, while the Status History table (lower down on the page, you have to scroll quite a bit to find it) allows you to check on historical service status:
The signal-light graphic used to show service status at a glance is easy enough for non-techies to understand (green = service is online, yellow = service is online but is experiencing performance issues, red = service is down, i = notes available). The rest of the information that’s provided when you mouse over a given status icon in the Status History table (as shown in screenshot above, red arrow indicates icon that was moused over) is only really intended to provide developers and tech administrators with status updates, so it’s not written to be consumer-friendly.
Services Specific To Amazon’s Alexa Service
I wish I could provide a reliably accurate list of all the services that could possibly be involved in supporting all Echo/Alexa features, but Amazon hasn’t published such a list. Also, I am not personally aware of all the Amazon services in use by Alexa skill developers. However, checking status for any service located in “N. Virginia” (indicated by red boxes in image above) will catch a lot of them. Not all of those services will be involved in Alexa stuff, but quite a lot of Alexa stuff is being run on N. Virginia servers.
There are two services I can definitely say are involved with Alexa/skills processing as of this writing so if immediate status information is vitally important to you, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feeds for these two. These are not pictured in the screenshots above, but you can find them by scrolling down the lists:
1. Amazon Dynamo DB (N. Virginia)
2. AWS Lambda (N. Virginia)
Click here to visit the AWS Service Health Dashboard, and bookmark the page for future reference.
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