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Amazon outage casts a cloud over cloud computing?

After four days, the great Amazon Web Services outage seems to have finally ended, for the most part, but it has cast a black cloud over the future of cloud computing.

AWS serves as the web hosting and storage center for some high profile sites — such as Reddit, Quora and Foursquare — which is why when it suffered from crashes starting Thursday, a lot of people took notice.

On Saturday, the outage was still in effect, prompting VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi to note:

Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud service hosts thousands of major web sites that rely on it to serve pages to users. And users rely on these services to store their personal accounts and data remotely. So when the EC 2 service goes down, so do the web sites, and that means users can’t log in to access their data. It’s a big hiccup for an industry that is supposed to grow to $55 billion by 2014, according to market researcher IDC. The duration of the outage has surprised many, since Amazon has a lot of backup computing infrastructure. If Amazon can’t safeguard the cloud, how can we rely on it? So the debate begins on the future of cloud computing and what to do to make users and companies put their trust in cloud vendors such as Amazon.

As of last night, at about 10:39 p.m. Eastern time, the Wall Street Journal's Steven Russolillo checked in to AWS to find it back online — mostly: "Access to the vast majority of affected database instances has now been restored," read Amazon's update.

Reddit, Quora and Foursquare all seem to be back in business, but not all of the AWS clients have met with completely satisfactory results.

On the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud forum, users were still abuzz in confusion and concern, wondering if the EC2 service was in fact operating normally. Looks like Amazon's techs were working overtime the past few days to try to reassure folks, but problems are still being reported this morning.

It's still unclear what caused the problem, and Amazon has not been forthcoming in answers, promising details later: "We are digging deeply into the root causes of this event and will post a detailed post mortem." Perusing the AWS status page where we found that tidbit, the techs seem to be giving blow-by-blows (sort of) updates of the EC2 problems at the Northern Virginia data center that seems to be where the problems began, with most of the issues dealt with by Sunday afternoon.

We are working through a more time-consuming recovery process for remaining volumes. We have made steady progress on this front over the past few hours. If your volume is among those recently recovered, it should be accessible and usable without additional action.

Is this more than a hiccup? Will this cause other businesses to think twice before entrusting their sites to Amazon's cloud? Answer our poll and let us know what you think.

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