Facebook’s Worst Outage Since 2008
On Monday, Facebook and its multiple apps including the popular Instagram and Whatsapp went down for 6 hours depriving many of their forms of entertainment and communication and showcasing just how reliant the world is on these platforms.
The outage beginning at around 11 am CST was caused by many issues within the main system that carries the global network. As explained in this post by Santosh Janardhan, the backbone in question is “the network Facebook has built to connect all our computing facilities together, which consists of tens of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables crossing the globe and linking all our data centers”.
He also goes on to explain that the historical outage occurred during routine maintenance that usually takes part of the backbone offline to repair fiber lines, update software, or add more capacity.
This time, however, during maintenance, while trying to run tests on the global backbone capacity, it disconnected all data centers of Facebook. Unable to stop the command, this caused Border Gateway Protocol advertisements to be withdrawn by DNS servers. After reconnecting the backbone network, there was a possibility of a surge due to a drastic increase in traffic. However, thanks to previous preparation, they were able to bring the service back up without any more roadblocks.
The company now plans to study this event and prepare for drills that give practice to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again and is currently reviewing ways to make their systems stronger in the face of unpredictable outages.
The bigger issue with the outage was just how apparent the dependence on Facebook and Facebook-affiliated apps, Whatsapp specifically, was. Whatsapp has become one of the biggest apps in the world boasting over 2.5 billion users across the globe and is the most popular messaging app of the times. The effects of the outage were particularly harrowing in less developed countries where the app is utilized to order COVID-19 tests, access doctors, call hotlines, and engage in business. In India, the app is used by small business owners who suffered greatly during the period of outage.
The Facebook outage goes to show the importance of connection and has forced increased scrutiny on the company calling for better internal regulation and infrastructure to make sure this type of social media blackout does not happen again.