Big problems with Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Load Balancing service in its US-East data center nailed Netflix and Heroku on Christmas Eve and carried over into Christmas. Netflix competitor Amazon Prime Instant Video appeared to be unaffected.

Amazon Web Services
photo: Flickr/Will Merydith

Updated: Oh to be a fly on the wall for the conversations that must be going on between Netflix and Amazon engineers this holiday season.

If you’re not a Netflix subscriber, you may not yet know that issues at Amazon’s US-East data center facility took down Netflix’ streaming service on Christmas Eve — arguably the worst possible time. Starting at 1:50 p.m. PST, as GigaOM’s Janko Roettgers reported, Amazon’s US east facility reported issues with its Elastic Load Balancing service that carried over into Christmas morning.  Interestingly, Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service, which competes head-on with Netflix and which also runs on AWS, appeared to be unaffected by the US East snafus.

Update 9:55 a.m. PST: One commenter from Mass. reported his Amazon Prime Instant Video was down for two days. I was able to access that service this morning with no problem. Stay tuned for updates on this.

The latest update to the AWS status page reads:

Dec 25, 4:36 AM PST We continue to work on resolving issues with the Elastic Load Balancing Service in the US-EAST-1 region. These issues are affecting updates to both existing and newly created ELBs. A subset of ELBs that made configuration changes or changes to registered instances during the event are experiencing errors or receiving reduced traffic. We continue to work toward a full recovery of the service. We apologize for the continued impact.

Other sites, including Heroku’s Platform as a Service, were also affected. Heroku, like Netflix, have been down this path before with previous AWS US East glitches.


This, the latest of several problems at Amazon’s Ashburn, Virg. facility, highlights a couple big, recurring issues for Amazon, its partners, rivals, and customers.

1:  US-East is Amazon’s largest and oldest data center facility and perhaps not coincidentally it’s also the facility at ground zero of most of the AWS-related outages over the past few years. Still, many customers feel they have no choice but to deploy there since it’s usually the first AWS data center to host new services (For example, Amazon’s new high-storage instance types announced last week are only available from US-East for now.) And US-East tends to be less pricey than Amazon US-West facilities in California and Oregon.

2: Working with AWS now is a lot like a software company partnering with Microsoft in the 80s and 90s — it’s both your biggest partner and your biggest rival so tread carefully.  At AWS: Reinvent last month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touched on this topic of “coopetition.”  Amazon Prime Instant Video competes with Netflix but “we bust our butts every day for Netflix,” Bezos said.

3: Issues like this one can only help AWS rivals in the OpenStack community — Rackspace, Hewlett-Packard et al that are trying to position their cloud services as options with better service and support, if not the same huge scale as AWS.  Partners might also take a harder look at other infrastructure providers like SoftLayer and Joyent. Just saying.

Update: At 8:45 a.m. PST Dec. 25: Netflix tweeted:

Update: At 6:49 p.m.  PST Dec. 26, an AWS spokeswoman got back with a statement:

“On December 24, AWS experienced issues with the Elastic Load Balancing service that impacted some customers in the US-East region. Impacted customers started to recover the evening of December 24 and the service was fully recovered and functioning correctly on December 25.  We have been heads down ensuring customers are operating smoothly and will be publishing a full summary of the event in the coming days.

Amazon Instant Video wasn’t significantly impacted because it didn’t need to take any Amazon Elastic Load Balancing scaling events during the time there were issues with the Elastic Load Balancing service in US-East. Only Elastic Load Balancers that were scaling up or down had issues during that time period.”

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  1. My Amazon Instant Video has been been down for two days. I live in Massachusetts. It’s not just Netflix.

    1. thanks tom. I was able to access it this morning. and Others on twitter reported it was up last nite. I will update the story. P.S. is it back up now?

  2. Working with AWS now is a lot like a software company partnering with Microsoft in the 80s and 90s — it’s both your biggest partner and your biggest rival so tread carefully
    ouch ouch

    1. Yeah there are a lot of frenemy partnerships, Apple & Google, Apple & Microsoft, and the juiciest of them all Apple & Samsung. Amazon is probably giving Netflix a tremendous deal, because they get to say that their competitors trust them.

  3. In ca amazon streaming has been intermittent all night. Took 7 hours to get through 4 -45 min episodes of a tv show

  4. I’m not mad at Netflix.


  5. so this was all Amazon’s fault… and I was close to unsubscribe from Netflix and switch to Amazon Prime… hmm.

  6. As the world turns Tuesday, December 25, 2012

    Re “Interestingly… ” cmon really? Nice fake plot twist. :-P

  7. I had problems with NETFLIX, MISSED MY MONK :(

  8. Amazon Prime was down for me on Xmas Eve in Portland, OR on my Roku. Was back up this morning and I’m watching it now.

  9. Mike Michaelson Tuesday, December 25, 2012

    Apparently GoPro.com was also affected by AWS… Boo Amazon!

  10. as far as i can tell from this and other sites, there was no widespread Amazon Prime Instant Video outage…. but i’ll keeplooking


    1. Maybe it wasn’t widespread and localized to just Roku or a few other devices? It wasn’t that big a deal to me so I didn’t jump online to complain about it and I saw that Netflix was having problems due to Amazon so I figured it was related.

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