It has been a tumultuous year in data privacy to say the least – we’ve had a huge increase in data breaches, including some of the largest in history; an uncertain future when it comes to cybersecurity policies; new European regulations that have major implications for U.S. companies; and yet, business carries on...

How Lady Gaga Punctured Amazon’s Cloud Computing Balloon

How Lady Gaga Punctured Amazon’s Cloud Computing Balloon

It is a safe guess that most of the regular readers on this website are not fans of Lady Gaga; so, here’s a brief outline:

Born March 28, 1986 and named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga came to prominence with her first album, “The Fame”, released in 2008. Since then, she has won five Grammys besides selling fifteen million albums and fifty-one million singles. She is also famous for notching up 10 million followers on Twitter earlier this month, the highest in the world. In other words, she is extremely popular.

Amazon learned about Lady Gaga’s popularity the hard way when a promotional campaign turned out to be yet another embarrassment for its cloud computing capabilities. As Lady Gaga’s much-awaited album, “Born This Way”, was released on 23 May 2011, Amazon offered her fans a seemingly no-brainer deal – buy the MP3 version for $0.99, a whopping $11 discount over Amazon’s more popular competitor in the online music retailing space iTunes.

Since the deal was valid for one day only, fans expectantly rushed to grab it. Unfortunately for them, and Amazon, the demand was considerably more than expected and ended up stalling Amazon’s servers. As a result, several fans were left holding partial downloads or none at all, and many switched to other retailers, primarily iTunes. Although Amazon did issue a placatory statement that all orders would be honored at the promotional price, the damage had already been done.

Since this promotional deal was being viewed as a major push for Amazon’s newly-launched cloud based service (See: Is Amazon’s Cloud Player a Game changer in the Music Industry?), this failure can, by association, seriously undermine its perception in the market. Going by what one disappointed fan wrote on Twitter, “I guess next time I will pay full price and get the album immediately on iTunes,” this is a valid concern.

However, what is more troubling is that this issue can be seen as a broader failure of cloud computing, especially after Amazon’s recent outage that garnered a lot of bad press (See: Lessons from the Amazon Cloud Outage). Although Amazon tried to put the blame on human failure (See: Did Human Error Cause the Amazon Cloud Computing Outage?), many people did express a distinct lack of confidence in the technology and the company (See: Reactions to the Amazon Cloud Outage and the Company’s Explanation).

Now, Amazon can certainly rebuild its reputation from this fiasco; however, such problems in succeeding months can end up hurting its standing among customers. As with the earlier outage, corporate communication was again an issue with Amazon providing no statement other than the short Twitter post:

We’re currently experiencing very high volume. If you order today, you will get the full @ladygaga album for $.99. Thanks for your patience.”

The Amazon management should be careful of possible incidents in the near future, improve corporate communications and concentrate on building up infrastructure, erring, as always, on the side of caution.

By Sourya Biswas

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