UPDATED 13:00 EDT / JUNE 08 2021

CLOUD

Dozens of major news sites and cloud services briefly go offline after Fastly outage

An outage in the infrastructure of content delivery network operator Fastly Inc. briefly took dozens of major websites offline early today, including The New York Times, GitHub, the U.K. government’s online information portal, PayPal and many others.

Fastly detected and rolled out a fix for the issue less than an hour after first flagging it on its status page. Shares of Fastly are up more than 5% this morning, suggesting the company’s rapid response assuaged any potential investor concerns about infrastructure reliability.

San Francisco-based Fastly first flagged the malfunction in an update that appeared on its status page just before 6 a.m. EDT. “We’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services,” the company’s engineers wrote at 5:58 a.m. Fastly issued the fix about an hour later. While the incident was still ongoing, Chief Executive Officer Joshua Bixby told the Wall Street Journal that the outage wasn’t the result of a cyberattack.

The company later shared additional details in a statement. “We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration,” it told users. POPs, or points of presence, are the server clusters that Fastly uses to host website content for customers. After the fix was released, another two hours or so passed until Fastly posted a final update on its status page indicating that all services have been restored.

The outage began less than 24 hours after a separate incident in which Fastly disclosed some customers were experiencing “intermittent domain not found errors.” That incident, which appears to have been much more limited in scope, was fixed within eight hours of the company’s initial alert to users. 

Content delivery networks like the one Fastly operators work by distributing copies of the content on a website to servers spread around the world. When a user navigates to the website, Fastly loads the content from the server in closest physical proximity to their device. This reduces the distance that data has to travel through the network until it reaches the user’s browser and thereby speeds up loading times.

Content delivery networks are increasingly taking on a bigger role in customers’ technology operators. In 2019, Fastly introduced a product that enables developers to host not only website content but also edge computing code across its global network of servers. Rival Cloudflare Inc. has likewise extended its focus beyond delivering content in recent years. Cloudflare now helps companies not only load their websites faster but also provide network connectivity between their internal systems, secure employee connections to business applications and reduce public cloud bills.

As the major content delivery providers take on a more important role in their enterprise customers’ operations, the potential impact of an outage will only grow. As a result, infrastructure reliability can be expected to continue being a central focus for the major industry players in both their information technology spending decisions and software development roadmaps.

Photo: Fastly

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