Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Beauty of Redundancy

Yesterday, my second camera arrived from the ebay seller. If you'll recall, I thus have two used Canon SD600s, my response to getting my camera stolen in Ethiopia.

On one hand, it felt very satisfying yesterday to have two identical cameras. It's relatively inexpensive (about $55 each), I enjoy the economic benefit (monetary, space savings, and convenience) of using interchangeable accessories, and I have an almost-immediate replacement in case one camera gets stolen again, or one breaks, or gets dropped in a latrine.

Also, there is beauty in redundancy. Didn't Monet paint eight million haystacks?

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
 Or how about Warhol's Marilyns?

On the other hand, I felt a little obsessive-compulsive. Did I really need to have a back-up camera? How likely was it for my camera to be stolen again? Wasn't portable, rootless me having two cameras a little like having millions of people take off their shoes at airports the world over, because one guy hid something in his shoes, once?

Ah, but then I saw this today: Amazon Gets Black Eye From Cloud Outage. Zowie! Just another example of the theory that all systems will fail - our goal is to ensure we fail smartly. I love what Rachel Dines said in her zdnet, Forrester Research, article, How Resilient Is Your Cloud Service Provider, about the Amazon web hosting cloudburst:

"When you use a cloud service, whether you are consuming an application (backup, CRM, email, etc), or just using raw compute or storage, how is that data being protected? A lot of companies assume that the provider is doing regular backups, storing data in geographically redundant locations or even have a hot site somewhere with a copy of your data. Here’s a hint: ASSUME NOTHING. Your cloud provider isn’t in charge of your disaster recovery plan, YOU ARE!" [Emphasis mine.]

I had really been impressed with Amazon S3 cloud data storage. [Note: The Amazon S3 data storage is a separate enterprise from Amazon EC2 web hosting enterprise.] What I said: "If I were a little more tech-savvy and if I knew I'd stay put in the U.S., I would have gone with Amazon S3 in an instant. I liked it for what appears to be an above-and-beyond security level, and that Amazon has a lot to lose if it were to compromise its customers' confidence in its service." I wasn't alone in that assessment, based, at the end of the day, on the quality of the Amazon brand and not on any subject matter expertise.  

I'd already had the experience of being too smart for my own good.  And being reminded that a fallback only works if the fallback is accessible.
So I'm good with having the two cameras.

.... On the other hand, evidently the immediate cause of the Amazon EC2 problem was, per Mashable article, What We Can Learn From Amazon's Cloud Collapse, too much redundancy! "The trouble was apparently due to excessive re-mirroring of its Elastic Block Storage (EBS) volumes — this essentially created countless new backups of the EBS volumes that took up Amazon’s storage capacity and triggered a cascading effect that caused downtime on hundreds (or more likely thousands) of websites for almost 24 hours." ....

I do need to get on to my overdue task item to work out my unsatisfactory flash drive back up system.

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