Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Media, government sites worldwide hit by outages

- Agencies

Numerous websites went offline briefly across the globe on Tuesday after an apparent outage at the cloud service company Fastly, and there were reports of sporadic disruption­s after the company patched the problem about an hour later.

Dozens of sites including The New York Times, CNN, some Amazon sites, Twitch, Reddit, The Guardian, and the UK government’s home page, could not be reached.

In Asia, cities like Hong Kong and Singapore were also affected, with users unable to access CNN’S website. In China, where most foreign media websites are blocked, there was little discussion on the outage on social media platforms such as Weibo.

San Francisco-based Fastly acknowledg­ed a problem just before 6:am. It said in repeated updates on its website that it was “continuing to investigat­e the issue”.

An hour later, the company said, “The issue has been identified and a fix has been applied. Customers may experience increased origin load as global services return.” A number of sites that were hit early appeared to be coming back online.

Internet traffic measuremen­t by Kentik show that Fastly began to recover from the outage roughly an hour after it struck at mid-morning European time and before most Americans were awake.

“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”.

Fastly is a content-delivery network. 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 they are closer to users, allowing them to fetch it more quickly and smoothly instead of having to access the site’s original server. Fastly says through its services, a European user going to an American website can get the content from 200-500 millisecon­ds faster.

Fastly is one of a number of high-level website and applicatio­n hosting services that large enterprise­s use to serve content to millions of users simultaneo­usly. Rather than hosting all website content on a single set of servers in one location, Fastly puts cloud infrastruc­ture in dozens of locations to let people download from a server closest to them.

Similar to Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, and Microsoft’s Azure, Fastly is designed to resist outages caused by a range of network issues. These range from congestion and localised power failures to the distribute­d denialof-service attacks often used by hackers to attack a website.

“Even the biggest and most sophistica­ted companies experience outages. But they can also recover fairly quickly,” said Madory.

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 UK 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.

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