On Tuesday June 8, 2021 Dozens of websites went offline briefly around the globe, including CNN, The New York Times and Britain’s government home page, after cloud computing service, Fastly experienced an outage. This has exposed how vital a small number of behind the scenes company have become in running the internet.
Other sites that couldn’t be reached were, the Financial Times, Reddit, Twitch, The Guardian and some Amazon pages.
Fastly, a cloud company based in San Francisco acknowledged the problem around 6 a.m eastern time. An hour later the company issued a statement via email stating that “The issue has been identified and a fix has been applied.” Most of the sites were seen to be back online shortly after.
The company said it was a “technical issue” and “not related to a cyber attack.”
Still, the incident which came a month after hackers forced a shutdown of the biggest fuel pipeline in the United States dipped many major futures markets in the U.S. shapely within minutes.
Fastly is a content-delivery network, or CDN. It provides vital but behind-the-scenes cloud computing “edge servers” to many of the web’s popular sites. These servers store, or “cache,” content such as images and video in places around the world so that it is closer to users, allowing them to access it more quickly and smoothly.
Fastly says its services mean that a European user going to an American website can get the content 200 to 500 milliseconds faster.
Internet traffic measurement by Kentik showed that Fastly began to recover from the outage roughly an hour after it struck at mid-morning European time, before most Americans woke up.
“Looks like it is slowly coming back,” said Doug Madory, an internet infrastructure expert at Kentik. He said “it is serious because Fastly is one of the world’s biggest CDNs and this was a global outage.”
Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief.
Fastly stock jumped about 6% by midday as it shows that investors had shrugged off the problem.
Still, the incident highlighted the relative fragile nature of the internet’s architecture showing how heavily it relies on Big Tech companies—such as Amazon’s AWS cloud services—as opposed to a more decentralized array of companies.
“Even the biggest and most sophisticated companies experience outages. But they can also recover fairly quickly,” Madory said.
When the outage hit, some visitors trying to access CNN.com got a message that said: “Fastly error: unknown domain: cnn.com.” Attempts to access the Financial Times website turned up a similar message, while visits to The New York Times and U.K. government’s gov.uk site returned an “Error 503 Service Unavailable” message, along with the line “Varnish cache server,” which is a technology that Fastly is built on.
The outages was reported by Down Detector, a site that tracts internet outages.