Words With Thoughts

Today morning when I logged into my Quora account through my mobile phone app, surprisingly it showed an error . Thinking of it as an app or a WiFi issue I tried to access my account on my laptop. But again the same response – 503 Error Service Available popped in spite of refreshing the website over and over again. I guess this is the first time I have seen something like this come up.

We are the millennials. We want quick information, quick results, quick feedback, and that too in a matter of seconds. Especially in the case of the internet. We fret at the thought of a slow internet connection. Our attention spans are getting shorter with time and we immediately switch between websites if one of them slows down.

Just like “Time is money” , similarly these days the “Internet is money”. Companies lose out on loads of revenue when it goes for even a few minutes. Our economy runs on it. A lot of our government procedures along with some of the most minute but significant processes are dependent on the internet.

But which company is behind the lightning-fast services? Who makes our lives smooth and efficient with making things possible within micro-seconds? Our internet service providers? Not just them. It is the Content Delivery Network (CDN) Service companies making content delivery as fast as possible.

One of them is Fastly which went down for about an hour this morning and the entire internet service went for a toss. The diagnosis of the entire situation is still ongoing. But since a huge gigantic set of companies rely on it, and that too, quite a number of them, it kept a huge chunk of people waiting only to be disappointed with an error 503 message for over an hour.

What is CDN or Content Delivery Network?

Websites like Amazon, Twitter, The New York Times are accessed from the world over and response to a request are shown in a split second. How does that happen? This is where Content Delivery Network comes into picture.

We will understand this with the help of an example. Let us say, a company has its headquarters in USA but has users spread all around the world. So when a request is placed on its website from say India, it takes comparatively more time to fetch the data from USA. To reduce this time, CDNs are placed by the company in various parts of the world. Now when a customer in India tries to send a request , it is redirected to the server placed closest to India.

Otherwise it will take a huge amount of time for data to reach from USA to India if the servers are only laid out at that one single location.

Is there only one benefit?

They provide a range of benefits and not just access to the data efficiently.

  • Increased security is one of the added feature.
  • Not just that it also reduces the load on one particular location because the request-response is distributed among the servers.
  • Also, the request once sent to the nearby server and data retrieved from it is cached in that server itself for quicker results later.

Competitors of Fastly

Based out of USA, Fastly is definitely not the sole provider of such services although a huge lot of companies relies on its services considering it is most efficient of all. Cloudflare, AWS, Akamai, Microsoft are some of the other bigger names in this product line.

Merely few minutes of downtime brought the entire world to a standstill. The social media burst out with confusion post the outage. Later Fastly updated everyone with the latest developments at the recovery end.

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