On Tuesday Jun 8th, thousands of government news and social media websites across the globe started coming back online. This is after a widespread hour-long outage hit the organizations. The outage is linked to US-based cloud company Fastly.
Sites that were down
According to outage tracking website Downdetector.com, high-traffic sites that went offline include Reddit, Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Spotify, Al Jazeera Media Network and the New York Times.
After outages that ranged from a few minutes to around an hour in the US, the sites came back on. However, European sites came back online in the middle of the day.
Fastly said “Our global network is coming back online.”
Fastly is one of the world’s most widely-used cloud-based content delivery network providers. Disruption from a “service configuration” was reported earlier by the company, though no further explanation was given.
Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, said “Incidents like this underline the fragility of the internet and its dependence on a patchwork of fragmented technology. Ironically, this also underlines its inherent strength and how quickly it can recover.” CCS Insight is a market information provider for companies in the wireless sector worldwide.
This incident is rare in the sense that an outage like this can grab headlines around the world, said Wood.
Andy Champagne is senior vice president at Akamai, a cloud service company. Champagne said typical service configurations for a cloud service provider are necessary. Service configurations include instructing a server to refresh the contents of a news site before serving it to a customer. Service configurations are also necessary for updating security rules to protect information.
Champagne explains that even a simple typo (or error) can be spread to thousands of servers and cause disruptions.
Back in 2019, the company Fastly went public. The company has a market capitalisation of under $6 billion. Compared to peers like Amazon’s AWS, it is far smaller in size. Customers’ websites are aided by the company’s content delivery network (CDN) to move content using less-congested routes. This speeds up the way information reaches their consumers.
James Fish, analyst at Piper Sandler & Co said “In the grand scheme of things, we actually think that this is a little bit of a positive for other CDNs and also just shows how difficult managing a CDN can be.”
Akamai Technologies, Cloudera and AWS are other main CDN providers aside from Fastly.
Neil Campling is a global TMT (Telecom, Media & Technology) analyst at Mirabaud Securities. Campling said, “It certainly reminds us just how crucial so few sites and services are to our digital lives.”
Not a cyber-attack
When visiting affected websites on Tuesday, users received error messages quickly. Champagne said this is a giveaway that Fastly was not a victim of a DDoS attack, or a type of cyber-attack in which a bad actor overtaxes a network using internet traffic to flood it.
The United Kingdom’s attorney general’s office quickly provided a separate email for queries. The office posted a tweet that the country’s main gov.uk website was down.
The Financial Times reported that this disruption may have caused issues for citizens reporting test results or booking COVID-19 vaccinations.
News outlets operating websites like Bloomberg News, The Financial Times and the Guardian also faced outages.
Digital advertising is how many websites earn revenue. Media measurement firm Kantar does back-of-the-envelope estimates. Based on Kantar’s calculations, websites worldwide lost over US$29 million in digital advertising revenue per hour during the outage.
The outage crisis brought out the creative side of some website owners. About half a million followers on KITKAT’s official handle were told “Guess it’s time to Have A Break”.
9th June 2021 23:00
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