August 4, 2021

Fastly, the company whose crash took dozens of major websites offline

For about an hour, Tuesday, June 8, many Internet users had the impression of witnessing a major Internet failure. In reality, it is a dysfunction having affected the services of Fastly, which works for large companies, which made the sites of many media – including The world, the New York Times, the Guardian – and online services – including Github, Twitch, Reddit, PayPal – inaccessible at the end of the morning, Paris time.

Read also The global blackout that has affected many Internet sites, including those of “The World” or Amazon, in the process of being resolved

Fastly is a content distribution company (content delivery network, CDN). By storing their customers’ data in many places around the world, these companies reduce the distance they have to travel to reach users, and therefore speed up the loading of a website or service. A reader of World resident in Australia thus generally accesses a copy of the site located in the country, without having to connect to the newspaper’s servers located in Paris.

Founded in 2011 in San Francisco, Fastly continued fundraising at the end of the 2010s, before going public in New York in May 2019. But with an annual turnover of $ 291 million (238 million euros), the company remains a long way from the success of the historic industry juggernaut, Akamai, which had more than $ 3 billion in sales in 2020. Like many online service companies, Fastly has experienced a very strong growth since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a market capitalization that has tripled since March 2020. The outage of June 8 did not seem to frighten investors: after a brief plunge in the opening, the Fastly share immediately started to rise again.

A tiny part of the web affected

The company did not detail the precise origin of the technical problem it faced, but announced that it had identified the origin of the failure and “The implementation of a corrective” less than an hour after its clients’ sites were taken offline. The outage lasted about an hour, with disparities between sites and countries.

Although it concerned high traffic sites, the dysfunction only affected a tiny part of the Web. About forty CDNs share this very large market, not counting the networks offered by telecom operators or, in certain cases, those developed by large Web companies for their own services.

Little known to the general public, these companies have acquired over the years a leading role in the operation of high traffic sites. In July 2019, an outage at one of Fastly’s competitors, Cloudflare, also left many websites inaccessible. Similar outages, lasting a few hours at most, also regularly affect the services of the largest companies on the Web, Google or Facebook.