From the archives: Android is open—except for all the good parts.
Within 15 minutes of the kickoff of one of Amazon’s biggest sales days of the year, it was quickly apparent the e-commerce giant didn’t have enough servers to handle the surge in traffic, leading Amazon to throw up a scaled-down backup front page and to pause all international traffic.
That’s according to CNBC, which got a look at internal Amazon documents that also suggest the company’s auto-scaling capabilities may have failed in the lead-up to the crash. “That,” according to the business news network, “led to a cascading series of failures, including a slowdown in (Amazon’s) internal computation and storage service called Sable, and other services that depend on it, like Prime, authentication, and video playback.”
The snafus ended up causing problems throughout the company. Some warehouses, for example, reported being unable to scan or pack orders. Teams encompassing Alexa, Twitch and other Amazon offerings reported having trouble.
To be sure, the company’s sales don’t appear to have suffered (though we can’t say the same for whichever Amazon staffers likely had to feel the full fury of company founder Jeff Bezos’ well-known volcanic temper). Or maybe a better way to say it is the company still made money hand over fist.
The aftermath of Prime Day saw the company rave about the more than 100 million products Prime members scooped up during the 36-hour event. Estimates put the cost to Amazon from the downtime, though, at between $72 million and $99 million in lost sales, according to Business Insider.
Here’s a closer look at what happened.
The site started getting buggy almost as soon as the much-anticipated sales day launch on Monday. Per CNBC, “Updates made at 12PM PST say Amazon switched the front page to a simpler ‘fallback’ page, as it saw a growing number of errors.
“By 12:15PM PST, Amazon decided to temporarily cut off all international traffic to ‘reduce pressure’ on its Sable system, and by 12:37 PM PST, it re-opened the default front page to only 25 percent of traffic. At 12:40PM, Amazon made certain changes that improved the performance of Sable, but just two minutes later, it went back to ‘consider’ blocking approximately 5 percent of ‘unrecognized traffic to U.S.,’ according to one of the documents.”
The site’s error rate continued to get worse and then saw a drastic improvement in the afternoon until Amazon finally got a handle on things. At one point, more than 300 people were on an emergency conference call.
This year’s was the first Prime Day run by Amazon vice president of worldwide marketing and Prime Neil Lindsay. University of Southern California professor Carl Kesselman told CNBC that, all things considered, Amazon’s response was still impressive. Because, in many cases “the site would have crashed entirely under those circumstances.”
“Amazon is operating at a scale we haven’t operated before,” he said. “It’s not clear there’s a bad guy or an obvious screw up — it’s just we’re in uncharted territory and it’s amazing it didn’t just fall over.”
If there was such a thing as the ability to wind back the clock about a decade, screenwriter and producer Carlton Cuse would be back behind the scenes at Lost, which circa 2008 was on the fourth of what would ultimately be six glorious seasons. It was, it should go without saying, among the hottest shows on network TV at the time, one of those series that came at the end of the appointment TV era and the onset of the binge-ification of the medium.
It also presents an interesting contrast to Carlton’s next project Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, a new TV series that continues the Jack Ryan superspy franchise and debuts on Amazon next month.
The longtime producer is still focused on content that addicts you, the same way we all kept tuning in to Lost because we were dying to know what the heck the numbers meant and why no one could leave the island. It’s just that now his content is coming to a streaming platform as opposed to a traditional network. And because he and fellow showrunner Graham Roland — another Lost vet who joined in season six as a writer — decided to work with Amazon, they told BGR it gave them a bigger budget, plus a higher profile cast and more creative carte blanche. Such that it’s a TV series that ends up feeling more like an eight-hour movie.
Carlton went so far as to insist in an interview that they not only got to make the show they actually wanted to make — free of copious notes and meddling from the men in suits. He adds the series would have never seen the light of day under the traditional network TV model, even back during the heyday when Lost was riding high.
“We basically were offered this franchise by Paramount, it was sort of a moribund movie franchise, and they weren’t really planning to make any more movies and like — for Graham and I, it was incredibly exciting,” Cuse told BGR. “Because doing it in the streaming space, we kind of imagined you could really tell a great story across eight hours that you couldn’t … it’s really hard to do a Jack Ryan story in two hours as a film.
“We went with Amazon, because they really promised they would support us and give us the resources and creative backing to make a very large-scale, full-throttle thriller. And they did. We went all over the world. We shot the show on three continents. It really — they provided us with the time and resources to make something that was really done in the same manner one would make a big Jason Bourne feature film.”
Amazon has certainly gone all-out on the series, with marketing that includes bringing a “Jack Ryan” fan experience to San Diego Comic Con this week that includes escape room challenges and spy training.
Carlton describes the Amazon series itself as a prequel — a kind of origin story that brings something new to the character played in film adaptations by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine and Alec Baldwin. This new one is also an original story, created by Carlton and Graham, as opposed to an adaptation of a specific book or story in the Clancy-penned series.
The two showrunners go on to praise actor John Krasinski’s “Everyman” portrayal of this version of Ryan — who we see leaving the confines of the CIA for the first time to go out into the field and track down terrorists. Graham compares Krasinski’s “relatability” to Tom Hanks’ brand of approachability. Where “you can see a little bit of yourself in him.”
“We took Jack Ryan’s character and the character of Jim Greer and Cathy Muller who in the books is Jack Ryan’s wife — in our story, they’re dating,” Carlton explains. “Jim Greer in the books and movies is like Jack Ryan’s boss way upstairs in a corner office at the CIA. In our story, he’s just one notch about Jack in the CIA, so they go out in the field together.
“So it’s kind of a prequel. It starts — Jack Ryan is sort of only four years into his tenure at the CIA. This is the first time — he’s an analyst in the terrorist arms and finance division and finds himself, based on this research he’s done like in a little cubicle, suddenly he’s on a plane going to Yemen and finds himself in the middle of hunting down these terrorists.”
From Graham’s perspective, he and Carlton jumped at the chance to bring the franchise to a new medium partly because of the rich storytelling potential around such a well-known American espionage character.
And for these particular veterans of prestige TV drama, they see streaming platforms like Amazon as springboards for, dare we say it, a new Golden Age of high-quality, compelling TV offerings.
“The entrance of Amazon into the production space has created an incredible opportunity (for us) as creators to do shows where you’re not resource-limited in the same way you are in a traditional model,” Carlton says.
A series like this one for Amazon, he goes on, it’s too outsized for the traditional model. But for a streaming service and a company like Amazon? It makes perfect sense.
“High-end or premium streaming is really where I think you’re seeing a lot of interesting work being done that is unrestricted by the cost and time limitations that traditionally existed in television,” Carlton says. “There’s almost, like, a continuum now. So at the high end, you have shows like ours. Or Big Little Lies, where you have movie stars, or Game of Thrones, where you have sort of unconstrained opportunities to tell a story in the same way you would in the feature film theatrical space. But you also have time to tell those stories with more depth and complexity and resonance, and that’s the part that’s really great.
“So Graham and I really viewed this as we were getting to tell one big eight-hour movie, and we approached it just like that … It has a different feel. It doesn’t feel traditional television. It feels like you’re watching a long but very engaging movie.”
The retail giant wants to offer video streaming at a more accessible price point.
Amazon kicked off its fourth annual Prime Day sales festival on Monday, but things weren’t off to a great start. Many Prime members looking to make the most of the 36-hour sale were greeted to site issues that prevented them from doing any shopping.
In fact, if you were greeted with Amazon dogs soon after Prime Day 2018 started, you were not the only one.
This year’s Prime Day will be Amazon’s most significant Prime Day ever, with some analysts expecting the retailer to sell goods worth $1 million a minute during peak times, and up to $3.6 billion in total for the entire event. If that forecast does come through, Amazon should rake in $1.2 billion more than last year’s Prime Day event. It helps that Amazon extended the sale period to 36 hours, and added even more countries than last year.
But the fact that some customers were not able to buy products in the first hours of Prime Day business will take a toll on revenue. Amazon quickly issued a statement on Twitter, saying that “some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we’re working to resolve this issue quickly.”
“Many are shopping successfully,” Amazon said, adding that “in the first hour of Prime Day in the US, customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year,” reminding fans that there were “hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop Prime Day,” at the time the statement was posted.
The site issues are all the more surprising for Amazon, considering the company is also running one of the biggest cloud businesses in the world, so it does know a thing or two about making sure a website as big as Amazon.com works flawlessly, especially during Prime Day events.
The point of Prime Day, of course, is to help Amazon sign up more people to its Prime club. After all, the Prime Day deals are targeting Prime members. If you’ve been experiencing issues with the site on Prime Day, one thing you can consider doing is cutting your Prime subscription for a period. Although Prime does come with so many perks, it’s worth getting a subscription — here are more details on what’s included in your Prime membership.
The dog-centric error pages that you may have seen on Monday afternoon have not been created for Prime Day. As Business Insider points out, they were there, part of Amazon’s 404 error page since at least 2006.
The dogs of Amazon are dogs that belong to Amazon employees, with the retailer being a dog-friendly working environment. I’m sure some Amazon employees would be a lot happier to receive other perks on top of this.
“At Amazon, bring-your-dog-to-work day is every day,” an Amazon blog post reads. The tradition started back in the early days of Amazon when a couple used to bring their Welsh Corgi, Rufus, to work with them.
That said, there’s plenty of time left in Prime Day 2018, and a ton of deals to take advantage of, hopefully, without any Amazon dogs sightings.