Although many are now touting the strength and reliability of ‘Cloud Computing’, it is apparent as of today that every large computer system is potentially vulnerable to failure. It is hard to imagine a hosting enterprise more complex and more considered than the data centers and network behind Google. The company processes the vast majority of the world’s search traffic queries every day – in addition to supplying both Google AdWords advertising and Google Analytics to a huge variety of the world’s websites. In order to keep this complex website hosting operation going, the company has a literal army of engineers and systems administrators who spend their lives ensuring that disaster won’t strike.
Yesterday disaster struck.
The outage is well documented online including this coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle. According to published reports Google suffered an outage affecting 14 percent of its audience. The outage lasted for 2 hours according to Google. You can see an interesting graph here which visually displays the impact to bandwidth when Google is taken out of the equation.
So why did Google’s hosting fail? According to the official Google explanation, ”An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam. As a result, about 14 percent of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions.”
One of the website hosting companies effected by the Google outage was UK web hosting firm 34SP.com. Co-founder Daniel Foster explained, ”While we had complete connectivity and speed here in the UK, we observed a few client notes regarding the speed of the website. It became apparent that the Google outage was affecting the general Internet when we checked out the worldwide conversation on Twitter.”
In fact, Twitter.com became a haven for those suddenly without Google – many for the very first time ever. Here is a small sample of the comments gleaned from Twitter during the heat of the outage.
”Note that when Google is down, searching for news about Google Outage on Google is pretty fruitless.”
”OH GOD HOW DO I USE THE INTERNET GOOGLE IS DOWN.”
”I didn’t realize how many non Google sites break too when they’re down.”
”Want more info, but would use google to find it. I don’t know how to use the Internet sans google?”
”google is down.. is this the apocalypse?”
”due to Google analytics and adsense’s ubiquitous nature, the entire internet is reduced to a creeping ooze.”