Amazon outage causes chaos, renders many helpless (and even locked out of their own homes) without working smart gadgets
By Mary Villareal // Dec 13, 2021

Thousands of people were left without working fridges, Roombas, doorbells and lighting at about 10 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday, Dec. 7, following the outage at Inc.'s cloud-computing arm – showing just how reliant people have become on the company.


The outage upended package deliveries and took down major streaming services. Affected services included the voice assistant Alexa and Ring smart doorbell unit. Device users tweeted their frustrations to Ring's official account, with many complaining that they spent a lot of time rebooting or reinstalling their apps before finding out that there was a general Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage.

All products that connect with AWS, which covers around four percent of its cloud computing services, were also affected. Some said they were not able to get into their homes without access to the phone app, which was also down. Others reported that they were unable to turn on their Christmas lights, and smart lightbulbs stopped responding to voice commands. (Related: Amazon's US customers have until today to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk, or Amazon will start sharing your bandwidth with nearby devices in other people's homes.)

For others, household chores became nearly impossible.

This outage prompted many to reflect on the downside of having smart homes that are overly dependent on the internet or one company in particular, as those with "dumb" homes say that their appliances and light switches were working just fine.

While Amazon's outage was a huge headache for many, it is also another reason why its monopoly is very dangerous, and why its single point of failure is bad news for those who have to use it.

The outage hammers the point that there is no compelling reason why every piece of technology people own should be connected to the internet, especially at a time of massive-scale web service outages.

Outage adds to Christmas delays

Some of the affected AWS operations were on the East Coast. AWS said that it resolved its network device issues about nine hours later. During this time, it disrupted the company's shipping operations, threatening to create more delays during the Christmas season.

The outage that shut down communications with smart homes also shut down communications between Amazon and its fleet of thousands of drivers it relies on for delivery, preventing them from getting their route assignments and packages. The outage could create more persistent logjams in an already strained supply chain.

Customers who were expecting packages were also notified that delivery would be delayed for one to two days, according to complaints on social media.

Amazon and its delivery partners regrouped on Wednesday, Dec. 8, in an attempt to keep the disruption from spiraling out of control.

While the incident mostly affected the Eastern U.S., it impacted everything from airline reservations and auto dealerships to payment apps and video streaming services to Amazon's own e-commerce operation, including the Associated Press, whose publishing system was inoperable for much of the day, limiting its ability to publish news reports.

Amazon did not say what went wrong. The company itself limited its communications on Tuesday to technical explanations on an AWS dashboard and a brief statement delivered by its spokesperson, who acknowledged that the outage had affected Amazon's own warehouse and delivery operation.

Five hours after numerous other companies and organizations began reporting issues, the company said in a post that it "mitigated" underlying problems responsible for the outage. It did not give full details.

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