Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.
Launching Amazon Web Services is rare, but it has enormous consequences.
It came this week when Amazon dropped Parler, a social network that caught on with conservatives after Twitter banned President Donald Trump and included content that encouraged violence. Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon in federal district court to prevent Amazon from suspending Parler’s account, and Amazon pushed back, asking the court to deny Parler’s motion.
The incident shows a kind of power that Amazon wields almost uniquely because so many companies rely on it to provide computers and data storage. According to estimates by technology research firm Gartner, Amazon controlled 45% of cloud infrastructure in 2019, more than any other company. The app survived without being listed in the Apple and Google app stores. However, by sending from the Amazon cloud, Parler is not represented on the Internet for days.
Parler’s engineering team had developed software that relied on computer resources from Amazon Web Services, and the company had spoken to Amazon about introducing a proprietary AWS database and artificial intelligence services, the company said in a court case on Wednesday With.
It would take some time to figure out how to perform similar functions on Parler’s own servers or a cloud other than AWS. And in the case of Parler, time is of the essence as the service gained attention and new users after the Trump ban on Twitter.
Parler’s engineers could learn to use other computing infrastructures, or the company could hire developers who already have this knowledge. However, since no cloud provider is as popular as Amazon, Oracle’s clouds, for example, are not as easy to find as those who know how to build on AWS.
The warnings were there
The speed with which Amazon acted shouldn’t come as a shock. Companies have been posting details of their dealings with Amazon for years warning of such sudden crashes.
In 2010, DNA sequencing company Complete Genomics said that “if Amazon Web Services disrupted the services we rely on to deliver ready-made genomic data to our customers, our customers would not receive their data on time.”
Gaming company Zynga warned its AWS foundation could quickly disappear when it filed for prospectus for its IPO in 2011. At the time, AWS was hosting half of the traffic for Zynga’s games like FarmVille and Words with Friends.
“AWS may terminate the agreement without giving reasons with 180 days ‘notice in writing and terminate the agreement with 30 days’ notice in writing for good cause, including all material failures or violations of the agreement by us that we do not within the 30th – Time of day, “said Zynga.
AWS may even immediately terminate or suspend its agreement with a customer in certain circumstances, as was the case with Wikileaks in 2010, indicating violations of the AWS Terms of Service.
Parler began using AWS in 2018, long after the Wikileaks incident and the first company disclosures about the possibility of cloud disruptions.
When AWS announced to Parler that it was planning to block Parler’s AWS account, Parler repeatedly violated the rules, including by not owning or controlling the rights to its content.
Over the course of several weeks, AWS Parler drew attention to cases of user content that led to violence, Amazon said in a lawsuit. Additional content emerged after protesters stormed the Washington Capitol on January 6, disrupting Congress’ confirmation of the electoral college’s results in the 2020 presidential election. AWS said that Parler had not done enough to quickly remove this type of information from its social network.
Parler could have protected himself better. Large AWS customers can sign up for broader agreements that give more customers time to comply when they break the rules.
Gartner analyst Lydia Leong explained this difference in a blog post: “Thirty days is a common time frame specified as a curing period in contracts (and the curing period in the AWS Standard Corporate Agreement), but it is click-through agreements from cloud providers (e.g., because the AWS customer agreement) does not typically have a curing period, action can be taken immediately at the provider’s discretion, “she wrote.
Other cloud providers have their own set of conditions that their customers must follow. AWS now has millions of customers and holds more of the cloud infrastructure market than any other provider. As a result, if they don’t behave according to Amazon’s standards, many companies could be exposed to the type of treatment Parler has received, rare as it is.
Parler recognized the drawbacks of being committed to a cloud provider, but ultimately the flexibility offered by the clouds was too attractive to ignore. “Personally, I’m very much against the cloud and anti-centralization, even though AWS has its place for high-frequency traffic,” wrote Alexander Blair, Parler’s chief technology officer, in a post about the service.
Parler and Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
CLOCK: Apple pulls Parler out of the App Store while cracking down on violent posts