Fastly Failure Causes Far-Reaching Internet Outage

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It only lasted an hour, but what a terrifying hour it was.

I say with no intended hyperbole that if the internet were to spontaneously disappear, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Both work and leisure require a working internet connection, so if I can’t do either, then what else is there? Going outside and reading a book? One shudders to think. Thankfully, the internet hasn’t disappeared, but this morning, a large swath of internet-goers got a small taste of what it would be like if it did.

Early this morning, at around 5:40 AM Eastern time, a massive swath of websites from around the internet, based in multiple parts of the world, even, were suddenly completely inaccessible. The sites that were hit by this mysterious outage include, but are nowhere near limited to, The New York Times, Reddit, Hulu, Amazon, Twitch, Spotify, and even the UK government’s own website. Panic promptly set in as users sought to determine the cause.

As it turns out, the cause was a software failure within the systems of Fastly, one of the largest content delivery networks (or CDNs) on the entire world wide web. Fastly’s job is to provide cloud computing cache for numerous websites, which allows them to run faster and prevent traffic overloads that lead to DDoS attacks. Some manner of botched software update within Fastly’s system caused about three-fourths of its network to buckle, and the sites and apps within that three-fourths to slow to the point of inaccessibility.

Luckily, Fastly’s engineers were able to pinpoint the problem fairly quickly, and within an hour, system normalcy was restored, barring some slightly slow load times due to the back up. The event has raised some concerns about the relative fragility of network framework, though it also highlighted the competence of those who manage it.

“There is no error-free internet, so the measure of success is how quickly a major internet firm like Fastly can recover from a rare outage like this,” Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for Kentik, said. “In this case, it was under an hour.”

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