Fastly, a popular cloud service provider that offers enterprise grade infrastructure to some of the most popular websites around the world, faced a server outage earlier today. The glitch began to be reported on social media platforms, with many users citing that popular websites such as Twitch, Reddit, GitHub, The New York Times, Lonely Planet, Shazam, The Rolling Stone and more were suddenly not accessible on the internet. The issue was quickly identified as an outage of service in the content delivery network (CDN) of the service provider.
The Fastly CDN outage was acknowledged by the company as well, which disclosed at 3:28PM IST that an investigation was underway. As of 4:14PM IST, the Fastly CDN issue was identified and fixes began to be implemented. At the time of publishing, News18 can confirm that most of the publicly listed websites, which were affected by the Fastly CDN outage, are now back online.
What is a CDN?
A content delivery network is essentially a wide inter-web of distributed global servers, which work to help a website appear to a global audience, at any part of the world. Since it is not possible, infrastructure wise, for each and every website to have its own web of globally distributed data servers, companies such as Fastly offer B2B (business-to-business) services, of which CDN is one. The Fastly CDN outage affected this, directly.
How this works is by offering fast inter-connectivity and information exchange of various elements of a website that are hosted on CDN services, such as the one provided by Fastly. In all of this, there is one key element to consider – CDN is not the same as a web hosting service. The latter is located at a specific geography, from where the source website is hosted. However, traditional web hosting methods often cause websites to operate slowly (or could be the targets of cyber attacks), which is why services such as the Fastly CDN have become increasingly popular among websites with large, global audiences.
How big is Fastly, and why was it down?
Fastly is a fairly successful CDN provider. Its list of clients, which it publishes on its own website, includes popular names such as GitHub, Twitch, Pinterest and Reddit, popular publications such as The Guardian, Fast Company, Lonely Planet, Wired and The New York Times, F&B rating site Yelp, image hosting platform Imgur, Australian transit deliver service Deliveroo, popular music recognition service Shazam, crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and more. Its audience, therefore, is global.
As of 4:27PM IST, Fastly has disclosed that “the issue has been identified and a fix has been applied. Customers may experience increased origin load as global services return.” In other words, all server loads should be back to normal. While Fastly has not offered further technical details in public, the crash may have been due to misconfiguration in certain servers that are part of the Fastly CDN network.
Service providers such as Cloudflare and Akamai, alongside Fastly, are often named as among the most reliable CDN services. One of the big pitches for CDNs is their redundancies in place to avoid crashes – such as the one that happened today. It is this that makes it a significant incident. At the moment, it remains unclear if the downtime may have involved any cyber attack or breach of servers that could have brought about the Fastly CDN outage.