The Weakest Link

FTLComm - Tisdale - April 29, 2001
The whole Internet was in trouble yesterday. If you were trying to access web pages, even connecting to SaskTel you would have found things slow and in many cases not working at all. My guess is that there were rolling power outages in the San Francisco area.

The regular routes most uploads take which are used here at Ensign were seriously disrupted. I went to work trying various sites and discovered that things were moving through Sacramento, to San Francisco, but San Jose, where much of the computing world is located, was out of service.

The illustration on the right shows the blue lines which a trace is following to get to Cupertino California, deep in the Silicon Valley. This illustration is how it usually works and how it is running today, but yesterday that trace did not function as it just could not get beyond San Francisco.

The way the Internet works is when a section goes down, it automatically finds other open paths so links to places like New York and Seattle were busy yesterday and in one case the link were going zig zag back and forth across Canada and the US to get a link to Texas.

It was so unusual, at one point I had to get my wife to come and take a look at the process and follow some of these weird links.

Just to get to Winnipeg was taking between 85 and 91 seconds where it usually only takes four or five. The main route is from Regina to Denver, Denver to San Jose then to Toronto and then Winnipeg.

But yesterday because San Jose, was off line, data was flowing from Regina to Toronto, then to Chicago back to New York then to Montreal and to Winnipeg. (the illustration below right is how it should usually go from Tisdale to Winnipeg)

The problems on the whole system were backing down causing internal problems so that Regina's various SaskTel servers were getting knocked off line and collapsing so that you would find it very slow just getting from any point in Saskatchewan to Regina. I spent quite a bit of time at it and discovered as much as eight seconds just getting through the servers in Regina and many errors in the process.

It was really a bad day for the network and likely the sign of things to come as more and more electrical difficulties plague the Pacific coast of the US. The odd thing is we consider it a local California problem, but the reality is that with so much commerce and economic activiity related to the Internet with the collapse of a power grid in San Jose, on the suburbs of San Francisco, the whole continent and perhaps the whole world's communication system almost quit entirely.

This illustration shows the connections that take place to go to Germany from Tisdale. Though this is a still picture you can see that it actually has a thicker line between Regina and Winnipeg as in this case the data flows a couple of times back and forth before heading on to Toronto, Virginia, Denver then to Franfurt.