How Cloud Computing Company Fastly Caused a Major Internet Outage

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Websites that Americans visit daily including Amazon, Reddit, Twitch, Pinterest, and more were unavailable on Tuesday morning due to a major outage caused by a service called Fastly. Here is why Fastly going down had such a major effect on other websites.

Breitbart News recently reported that on Tuesday morning, multiple popular internet websites including Amazon, Reddit, Twitch, Pinterest, and more went offline due to a major outage at a service called Fastly. CNET reports that at around 2:58 a.m. PT, Fastly noted on its status update page that the service was experiencing issues, stating: “we’re currently investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN [content delivery network] services.”

Shortly afterward, reports appeared on Twiter that major publications such as the BBC, CNN, and the New York Times were experiencing outages. Twitter itself was still running but the server hosting Twitter’s emojis went down.

Around the world, people found themselves unable to access many websites, including some vital services such as the UK government’s gov.uk website. Almost an hour later at 3:44 a.m.  Fastly updated its status page to say that the issue had been identified and a fix was implemented. The company tweeted at 4:10 a.m.: “We identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions across our POPs globally and have disabled that configuration. Our global network is coming back online.”

Fastly is a cloud computing service provider based in San Francisco that has been operating since 2011. In 2017 the company launched its edge cloud platform that was designed to “bring websites closer to the people who use them.” This means that if you access a website hosted in another country, some of that websites data will be stored on a server geographically closer to you so that there’s no need to waste extra bandwidth by having to collect that website’s content from a server far away every time you want to access it.

This makes websites load faster and optimizes images, videos, and other high-data content. Fastly claims to have made loading pages on Buzzfeed 50 percent faster and allowed the New York Times to simultaneously handle 2 million readers on election night. Edge computing also offers a number of cybersecurity functions including protecting sites from DDOS attacks and bots, as well as providing a web application firewall.

We now know that Fastly’s outage was caused by a “service configuration,” but not much more than that at the moment. Until Fastly performs a full investigation and provides more detail, it’s hard to determine the root cause of the outage.

Fastly is a widely used service by many web publishers and services, the service’s popularity became obvious on Tuesday when many websites were affected by Fastly’s outage. Corinne Cath-Speth, a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford Internet Institue and the Alan Turing Institute pointed out on Twiter that this means “a technical hiccup in a single company can have huge ramifications. This in turn — raises major questions about the dangers of (power) consolidation in the cloud market and the unquestioned influence these often invisible actors have over access to information.”

Breitbart News will continue to report on the internet’s single points of failure.

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