Impact of the Amazon Server Crash Spreads

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Last week Amazon's EC2 web-hosting service suffered a technical problem that took down some of web's most popular social sites including Reddit, Foursquare, Quora and Hootsuite, among others, and service disruptions are ongoing. But given the wide adoption of Amazon's hosting service, it's not surprising that the outage spread beyond the the realm of social media startups. Web ntrepreneur Jason Calancanis pointed to a disturbing message posted on the Amazon Web Services forums, supposedly from a cardiac patient monitoring company, with the subject heading, "Life of our patients is at stake - I am desperately asking you to contact." The message read:

Sorry, I could not get through in any other way

We are a monitoring company and are monitoring hundreds of cardiac patients at home.
We were unable to see their ECG signals since 21st of April

Could you please contact us?... Or please let me know how can I contact you more ditectly.
Thank you

So far there is no response at Amazon, however an intense debate has begun underneath the post regarding whether or not a company should stake its customers' lives on the reliability of Amazon's servers. As one commenter wrote:
You put a life critical system on virtual hosted servers? What the hell is wrong with you?
Another commenter elaborated:
Which begs the question, why did you leave yourself -- and your patients -- open to this risk in the first place? I hope for your patients' sake that you begin taking more seriously your IT planning. Since you apparently don't have a fail-over -- and are waiting for Amazon anyway -- you might want to think about solving the weakness you built into your own system, i.e., start working on an alternative method of getting what you need. And if you can't find a way to do that even now, I submit that you should never have launched your service at all.
The original poster responded by backtracking on his subject heading, and wrote, "This is a home based system, not an intra hospital system. So the promised 99.95% uptime is fine" and "this is not a life saving system.Which does not mean that patient's life cannot be saved using it."
Others maintained that despite the flaws of relying on servers that you can't touch, the villain was Amazon for its flawed server and its failure to respond to the posters' cry for help:
No reason for everyone to go all self-righteous on him. In the end, the market will decide. if his patients die, he'll be fired and/or his company will go out of business... I guarantee that there were hundreds of other mission-critical apps in the healthcare industry that went down as well. Amazon's US-EAST region hosts hundreds of thousands of customers. It's one of their largest.

The villain here is Amazon, not specific developers who may or may not be in the healthcare industry.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.