COVID-19: Weekly health check of ISPs, cloud providers and conferencing services

ThousandEyes, which tracks internet and cloud traffic, is providing Network World with weekly updates on the performance of three categories of service provider: ISP, cloud provider, UCaaS

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Collaboration app network outages dropped from four to five compared to the week before, with a drop in U.S. outages from five to one accounting for the improvement.

There were two noteworthy outages during the week:

  • Just after 3 a.m. EDT on May 20, Google suffered an outage in the East Coast part of its network that affected users accessing site such as Uber and Shopify that are hosted by the public cloud provider. The outage lasted nine minutes and was located in the New York City metro area, and since it was during off-peak hours, impact on users was likely minimal. Click here for an interactive visualization of the outage.
  • About 8 a.m. EDT on May 22, Hurricane Electric suffered an outage that lasted more than an hour and affected several countries. The worst part lasted 44 minutes. The outage was observed at Hurricane Electric nodes across multiple global locations, and affected users reaching sites including Microsoft, Amazon, Workday and Credit Suisse. Click here for an interactive visualization of the outage.

Update May 18

The total outages globally leapt up 22% between the week of May 4-10 and the week of May 11-17, from 216 to 263.

ISP outages worldwide grew from 183 to 223, while those outages in the U.S. moved up from 74 to 80.

Public cloud outages grew from 13 to 24 worldwide, but dropped from three to one in the U.S.

Collaboration app providers dropped worldwide from six to five, while for the third week in a row the U.S. outages totaled five.

One noteworthy outage found users around the world unable to load content hosted by YouTube for about half an out on May 14 starting about 4 p.m. PDT. Users could connect to YouTube servers, but the service itself didn’t load properly. ThousandEyes said a critical object on the site was responding erroneously, indicating a web-application issue, perhaps due to a site update or change.

Update May 11

Overall outages dropped for the second week in a row, from 282 the week before last to 216 (23%) last week. In the U.S. outages fell from 98 to 83 (15%).

ISP outages worldwide were down 22% (from 236 to 183) and in the U.S. they fell 18% (from 90 to 74).

Cloud networking outages dipped from 13 to 12 (7%) worldwide, and in the U.S. dropped from 3 to 1 (66%)

Collaboration-application network outages fell worldwide from seven to six (14%) and stayed steady in the U.S. at five.

ISP Cogent Communications suffered a notable 38-minute outage starting on May 5 about 12 a.m. PDT, affecting its infrastructure in the U.S., U.K., Canada and France. Traffic terminated in Cogent’s network, and users were unable to reach sites such as Amazon, Microsoft, WorldPlay and Oracle Cloud.

Update May 3

Overall, the number of outages dropped across the board last week, from 313 to 282, a decrease of 31worldwide, mainly due to a drop in overall U.S. outages from132 to 98.

Most of that was driven by a decline by at least half of outages for both ISPs and collaboration providers.

Total ISP outages dipped from 250 down to 236 globally, while ISP outages in the U.S. went from 124 to 90. That’s the second week in a row of declines.

Worldwide, collaboration provider outages dropped from 14 to seven, but rose from three to five in the U.S.

Public-cloud outages also declined week-over-week from 26 to12 globally and from four to one in the U.S.

Virgin Media suffered a noteworthy outage during the evening of April 27 in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. It started at 5:15 p.m. local time and lasted 15 minutes, then  again at 6:15 for another 15 minutes. The pattern repeated several more times, transitioning to briefer outages that ended by 1:30 a.m. April 28. Based on the pattern, Thousand Eyes suggests that an automation issue could have been the root cause, though no official reason had been made public.

Update April 27

Globally, outages hit a record high during the week of April 20-26 – 313 – up 11% from the week prior and up 77% from the temporary decrease the week of April 6. The number of outages is the most since the end of March, but two issues – fiber cuts in CenturyLink’s network and a broad Tata Communications outage – helped push that number up. Outages in the U.S. hit record numbers, too, at 132.

The ISP outages worldwide tallied 250, and in the U.S. spiked to 124, a new high including the CenturyLink and Tata problems.

After a two-week downward trend, cloud provider outages globally increased to 26, the same levels registered in late March and early April. In the U.S. they went down slightly from six to four. Overall, these numbers are still in the normal range and in general, cloud providers continue to hold up well.

Collaboration-application-network outages increased slightly over the previous week from 11 to 14 but continue to remain low relative to the peak of 29 observed in the week of March 30-April 5. U.S. outages dipped from four to three.

The major outage in the Tata Communications network on April 20 affected its infrastructure in the U.K., France, Germany, and India. Around 11 a.m. local U.K. time, traffic attempting to reach services such as Amazon, ServiceNow, and Oracle Cloud began terminating in its network, affecting local users, users in the U.S. and elsewhere. The outage lasted about 20 minutes, and affected more than 80 network interfaces across multiple regions and cities.

Another far reaching outage occurred the next day in the U.S., when at least one fiber cut within CenturyLink’s network in Southern California affected enterprises and consumer users up and down the West Coast, and as far away as Raleigh, NC. It affected the Level 3 part of CenturyLink’s network, a transit provider it acquired in 2017. Merrill Lynch reported a disruption to its business as a result of the network outage, during which its brokers were intermittently unable to access their workstations. The incident started hitting enterprises and their users around 10 a.m. ET, with most disruption resolved by around 11:30 a.m. ET.

Update April 20

Total outages spiked 58% during the week of April 13-19 fueled by one prolonged outage that had a significant effect on multiple ISPs.

That one outage affected TeliaNet, Level 3, AT&T, and other ISPs on April 13. TeliaNet was the most affected of the group, and it’s not clear whether it was the cause of the outage,ThousandEyes says. During the downtime, at least one application provider withdrew route through the TeliaNet network until the next day.

Had that one outage not occurred, the total number of outages for the week would have been in the low 200s, which ThousandEyes says is in the normal range. As it turned out, total outages rose 59% from 177 to 282.

ISP outages jumped from 141 to 243 week over week, up 72% worldwide, and from 56 to 98 (75%) in the U.S.

Public cloud outages dropped off from the week before, from 19 to 14 (down 36%) worldwide, and stayed steady at six outages in the U.S.

Global application-provider networks had a slight increase in outages worldwide, up from 9 to 11 (22%), but dropped from 9 to 4 in the U.S., down 55%.

In other major outages,ThousandEyes said it appeared that several banks effectively suffered denial of service conditions when customers apparently flooded their sites seeking to find out whether they’d received their pandemic-related stimulus checks. Content-delivery networks serving the banks didn’t have network issues yet were unable to return Web content for many banking sites, “likely due to bank origin servers unable to handle the high volume of requests,” ThousandEyes says.

Update April 13

During the week April 6-Apri 12, service outages for ISPs, cloud providers, and conferencing services dropped overall. They went from 298 down to 177 globally (40%, a six-week low), and in the U.S. dropped from 129 to 72 (44%).

Globally, ISP outages were down from 229 to 141 (38%), and in the U.S. were down from 100 to 56 (44%).

Cloud provider outages were also down overall from 25 to 19 (24%), ThousandEyes says, but jumped up from one to six (500%) in the U.S., which saw the highest rate of increase in seven weeks. Even so, the U.S. total was relatively low. “Again, cloud providers are doing quite well,” ThousandEyes says.

Conferencing services recovered from a spike the week before, and all of the outages – nine – were i.n the U.S. Globally outages dropped from 29 to nine (68.9%), and in the U.S. from 25 to nine (64%).

Update April  6

Outages for ISPs globally were down 9.13% during the week of March 30 from the week before, whereas U.S. outages were down 16.7%, dropping from 120 to 100. Worldwide the outages were also down, from 252 to 229. Public cloud outages rose worldwide from 22 to 25, and in the U.S. there was one outage, up from zero the previous week.

Outages for collaboration apps rose dramatically, increasing more than 260% globally and more than 500% in the U.S. over the week before. The actual numbers were an increase from eight to 29 worldwide, and up from 4 to 25 in the U.S.

ISP Cogent Communications suffered what ThousandEyes called a significant outage April 1 from 12:30 p.m. to 12:35 p.m. Pacific time that affected the ability of users to connect to sites and service such as Office 365. Because Cogent peers with other providers, the customers of those providers might have experienced disruption to some services as well.

Access to Yelp and some applications and sites hosted by AWS and Cloudflare were unreachable between 12:35 and 12:40 p.m. Pacific time on April 1 when Russian ISP Rostelecom leaked illegitimate IP address prefixes to its ISP peers, including Level 3. Such leaks lead to incorrect or less than optimal routing, according to ThousandEyes.

In this case, the leak improperly inserted Rostelecom into the network path between users and the affected providers. Level 3 propagated those improperly advertised routes to its peers, setting off a chain of events that led to massive traffic drops during the outage time.

Update March 31

Looking at data over the past six weeks, ThousandEyes finds that the combined worldwide service outages among ISPs, public cloud providers, conferencing services and edge networks (content-delivery networks, DNS, and security as a service) has risen 42%.

Cloud-provider performance hasn't been affected much at all, and in fact multiple weeks last year had a much higher number of outages.

Week of March 23

Between the week of March 16 and March 23, the outages suffered by ISPs worldwide went down from 230 to 203, nearly 12% lower. In the U.S., the number of outages rose from 100 to 107, up 7%.

Public cloud outages were down both worldwide and in the U.S. Worldwide, they dropped from 21 to 15 (down 28%), and in the U.S. dropped from six to zero. There was a service disruption to Google traffic due to a router failure in Atlanta, it did not meet ThousandEyes’ definition of an outage, and it wasn’t related to COVID-19.

Collaboration applications also showed a decline in outages from the week before, dropping from 15 to six worldwide, and down from seven to three in the U.S., reductions of 60% and 57%, respectively.

ThousandEyes highlighted what it considered significant outages:

  • “Cogent Communications suffered yet another significant outage this week — its fifth major outage this month. The outage occurred within parts of Cogent’s network in Northern California and Oregon and impacted users connecting to sites and services in those regions, including projectbaseline.com, the website of Verily’s much-publicized COVID-19 testing program.”
  • ”For approximately 20 minutes on March 25th, ThousandEyes observed that some users located on the East Coast may not have been able to reach Google services due to 100% traffic loss. A short time later, Google’s SVP of Engineering tweeted that the incident was due to a router failure in Atlanta, Georgia. US users outside of the Northeast were also impacted intermittently, although they would have experienced the incident as site errors when trying to reach some Google sites, such as google.com. The HTTP server errors seen during this period are consistent with an inability to reach the backend systems necessary to correctly load various services. Any traffic traversing the affected region — connecting from Google’s front-end servers to backend services — may have been impacted and seen the resulting server errors.”

With the increased use of remote-access VPNs, major carriers are reporting dramatic increases in their network traffic – with Verizon reporting a 20% week-over-week increase, and Vodafone reporting an increase of 50%.

While there has been no corresponding spike in outages in service provider networks, over the past six weeks there has been a steady increase in outages across multiple provider types both worldwide and in the U.S., all according to ThousandEyes, which keeps track of internet and cloud traffic.

This includes “a concerning upward trajectory” since the beginning of March of ISP outages worldwide that coincides with the spread of COVID-19, according to a ThousandEyes blog by Angelique Medina, the company’s director of product marketing. ISP outages worldwide hovered around 150 per week between Feb. 10 and March 19, but then increased to between just under 200 and about 225 during the following three weeks.

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