A failure in the services of the American cloud services company Akamai has caused interruptions in the service of companies such as Airbnb, video game platforms such as Playstation Network or Steam, airlines such as Delta Air Lines, distribution chains such as Costco Wholesale, financial services such as American Express, in addition to numerous banks such as BBVA, or media such as EL PAÍS, among others. This failure in the service has prevented access to the web or that images could be displayed within the news. Shortly before 7:00 pm on Tuesday, Akamai claimed to have “implemented a solution to this problem and, based on current observations, the service is returning to normal operation.” “We will continue to monitor to ensure that the impact has been completely mitigated,” he said. in a note posted on his Twitter account. The company has confirmed that it is not a cyber attack. In early June, a similar failure at rival company Fastly knocked out The New York Times, EL PAÍS, Amazon, Twitch, Paypal o Reddit.

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The company explained that the fall occurred at 17.46 on Thursday, when an update of the computer program configuration (software) has caused a failure in the DNS system, the system that directs browsers to websites. “This caused an outage that affected the availability of some customer websites.” The outage lasted an hour, which took the company to roll back the configuration.

DNS services are key to the functioning of the internet. Each web page has an IP (internet protocol in English) address, which is the equivalent of a telephone number. It is presented as a string of four or six numbers separated by periods, such as 192.158.1.38. The IP addresses have to be translated into names of pages that we can remember, such as elpais.com. This is what the system takes care of Domain Name System (domain name system), known by its acronym DNS. The company has promised to investigate this issue “actively,” and has encouraged customers to contact technical support if they are experiencing a service impact as a result.

The so-called cloud is made up of many computers connected online that host a good part of the services that we access without them being on our device. Examples are emails, storages like Dropbox or home devices like Alexa. This market is dominated by Amazon with its subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS), followed by Microsoft and Google.

Message about the incident posted by Akamai.

These computers may be located on the other side of the world (Akamai alone has 325,000 in 130 countries, as explained to the US stock regulator). Therefore, there may be delays in the delivery of content over the internet. That is why there is a second level formed by other firms called content distribution network (CDN). A CDN is basically a network of servers in different data centers around the world that are dedicated to temporarily storing copies of your clients’ pages. The idea is to avoid that the geographical remoteness of a service or its central servers, or a high demand from users, can cause a page to take time to load or even cause the system to crash. One of them, Fastly, rose to fame after its downfall in early June. The other two best known are Cloudflare and Akamai itself.

Falls like today’s are generally relatively brief. The three similar big recent cloud service drops were from Cloudflare in 2019 and 2020 and Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2017, in addition to Fastly in early June.

Akamai was founded in 1998 by Daniel Lewin, an MIT alumnus who died three years later, just 31 years old, in one of the planes used by the terrorists for the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, after being stabbed by one of the hijackers. The company posted a net profit of $ 155.7 million in its fiscal first quarter, ended March 31, which was a 25.8% year-on-year increase.

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