There was a significant outage at Cloud Computing services provider due to which dozens of websites, including Reddit, CNN, The Guardian, The UK government, and others, were offline on Tuesday. Even Amazon.com Inc’s retail website seemed to face an outage.
The major problem related to the San Francisco Cloud Services Provider Fastly, which many companies used to help their websites load faster. The companies had identified the problem and applied a fix; just after an hour of the outages had hit, this allowed the affected website to come back online.
The interruption underscores that we hardly know about the Internet infrastructure companies like Fastly are for the normal functioning of the web. This also shows how the isolated disruptions can bring huge parts of online life to a halt.
As the internet grows, few companies form the backbone infrastructure that keeps all the traffic flowing to the right places. According to an information technology analyst at Gartner, “the existing companies are the only ones’ ability to handle the expanding workload, and the smaller companies are struggling to find a foothold in the market.” He further added, “We see more and more being concentrated in fewer and fewer vendors” and “Everybody has this perception of the internet as this robust thing, and it is until it is not.”
Few other outlets affected by the blackout included CNN, the Guardian, Bloomberg News, the Financial Times, and The Verge. There were a lot of High-traffic platforms like Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitch which were also affected. Even the British Government’s website was taken down, limiting access to public services, including the portal for booking a COVID test. According to Ketnik, a company that helps various businesses track internet traffic said that Fastly suffered a global blackout that began at 5:49 a.m. Eastern time. It served a 75% drop in traffic from various servers.
Similar blackouts have been observed in the past; in July 2020, engineers at Cloudflare, which provides similar services to Fastly, had accidentally pushed vast amounts of Internet traffic to a single data center in Atlanta. This caused a failure and took down the websites like Medium and Video Game League of Legends.
In the wake of high-profile ransomware attacks, like the one against the Colonial Pipeline in May or the meat processor JBS last week, experts are more concerned about the vulnerability of the rising internet.
Fastly runs a “Content Delivery Network,” or a system of servers that the customers used to reduce the loading time of the websites by storing large files like images and videos that are closer to the end-users. Various large companies like Google, Amazon also keep the bulk of the internet and have fewer but larger warehouses. Even Amazon is one of those who used Fastly to speed up the page load rate. But only the content delivery networks aren’t the reason behind such meltdown; even web hosting companies like GoDaddy, Shopify, etc., are the significant chokepoints. If the cloud giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft go down, they have a wide-ranging effect.
What Happened to the Internet?
There is a problem suspected with Fastly’s content delivery network of setting off the outages at various high-traffic websites and platforms. The major choke points that could have wide-ranging effects include CDNs and have wide-ranging effects if something fails.
An e-commerce website could be blocked in various ways:
1. The Website Crashed
Here the culprit is a missing file or failing codes. The problem, in this case, is within the store and not the service. Hence, it won’t affect the other websites.
2. The Cloud Hosting Stops Working
When the content fails, it causes the pages not to load.
3. The CDN’s Encountered Some Problems
CDN helps in the quick loading of the pages. If the CDN fails, as is believed to have happened on Tuesday, the store sites went unavailable.
4. DNS Malfunctioned
DNS points the store’s URL to the correct IP address. The central point is that if the server goes down, shoppers can’t visit that website.
The problems at any point can also be malicious attacks. But the problem generally arises from accidentals and technical issues.
The blackouts at content delivery networks and internet service providers are generally resolved quickly. There is a sheer amount of Internet traffic, and in reality, there are only a few companies that provide such services; hence this is likely to keep happening.
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