What is Fastly and why did it just take a bunch of major websites offline?

A host of major websites, including Amazon, Reddit, and news publishers like the New York Times, were hit by a massive internet blackout on Tuesday.

The outages began around 6 a.m. ET and users reported that they were getting error messages including “Error 503 Service Unavailable” and “Could not log in” when trying to visit multiple websites.

The sites, which also included the UK government website, are now mostly online.

Early reports pointed to the fault of Fastly, an American cloud computing services company. Fastly’s status page said Tuesday morning that it was investigating a technical problem. Now it says that the problem has been solved.

Shares of Fastly fell in pre-market trading in the United States but rose as much as 6% when markets opened on Tuesday.

What is Fastly?

It quickly operates what is called a content delivery network or CDN.

CDNs are networks of servers and data centers distributed throughout the world that allow the transfer of assets necessary to load content from the Internet.

The company describes its technology as an “edge cloud” platform, which essentially means that it places its infrastructure closer to where it is needed to provide users with faster response times.

Fastly’s technology is designed to address common causes of online disruptions, such as distributed denial-of-service attacks that overwhelm a website with a sudden surge in traffic.

“The intent of CDNs is to route (or distribute) Internet traffic and services through ‘nodes’ to balance traffic load, avoid bottlenecks, and achieve high availability and faster content delivery,” said Mark Henry, director of data protection and cybersecurity at the global law firm DWF.

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“Requests for content are driven by an algorithm, for example, the algorithm can direct traffic to go through the most available or best-performing node, or to have the traffic take the fastest network route to the requester.”

Henry said some of the organizations affected by the outage were reverting to non-CDN distribution schemes to get their sites back up and running, but that could result in a “slower than normal” experience for users.

Why did the failure occur?

The outage has led to online speculation that Fastly may have been the victim of a cyber attack. But Fastly CEO Joshua Bixby told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the outage was not related to an attack.

The company said in a tweet that it had “identified a service configuration that caused an outage” in its machine groups around the world.
“Our global network is coming back online,” the company added.

Tuesday’s downtime was another reminder of the increased concentration of critical internet infrastructure among a relatively small number of businesses.

“This is what happens when half the Internet depends on Goliaths like Amazon, Google and Fastly for all its servers and web services,” said Gaz Jones, chief technology officer for digital agency Think3. “The entire internet has been dangerously focused on a few players. ”

When Amazon’s cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, ran into a problem in 2017, some of the world’s largest websites went offline for several hours on the east coast of the United States.

Meanwhile, in 2019, the American web security company Cloudflare encountered a problem that lasted for about an hour and affected websites, including the Discord chat service and the OkCupid dating site.

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News Source@ CNBC

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