If you encountered a 502 Bad Gateway Error in your internet travels yesterday, you weren’t alone.
Cloudflare, an industry-leading network services provider, was responsible for the mid-morning turbulence that prevented internet users across the world from accessing many websites, several of them heavily trafficked.
What is Cloudflare, Anyway?
Cloudflare is a content delivery network that services 16 million websites across the world. Among other security- and performance-related services, Cloudflare’s network distributes website data to servers in nearly every major city. This allows website users in locations across the world to download this information at a lightning-fast pace, especially during peak traffic times. Without a content delivery network like Cloudflare, videos, images, and even text-based web pages are quite slow to load.
Each day, 1 billion unique IP addresses access websites serviced by Cloudflare.
Cloudflare enjoys a hefty market share in the cloud infrastructure niche, which, in 2018, exceeded $80 million. According to Datanyze, Cloudflare holds the leading position within the industry at a 34.5% market share. Amazon Cloudfront follows at a close second, with a 28.8% market share. Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure are other popular solutions.
What Websites Were Affected By the Cloudflare Outage?
Cloudflare itself might not be a household name, but many of the websites it services are. The network services giant facilitates information requests for 10% of the Fortune 1,000 websites.
The Cloudflare outage affected countless company websites, with some of the most popular victims including:
The outage was not limited to a particular segment of internet users, affecting companies in both consumer- and business-facing spaces.
OkCupid is a popular destination in the consumer-facing world, as one of the best-known online dating websites.
Marketo, a leading marketing automation tool, is used by corporations spanning countless industries to provide a more personalized customer experience, and increase sales.
CoinDesk, which provides insights about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, didn’t experience an outage. But because it relies on information from other websites, CoinDesk erroneously listed the price of Bitcoin as $26—a massive drop from the actual $10,000 value.
In an ironic turn of events, even Down Detector—a website that tracks reported internet outages—was down, preventing panicked internet users from checking the status of these websites.
502 Bad Gateway Errors: What Are They?
Upon visiting a website impacted by the Cloudflare outage, visitors were greeted with a “502 Bad Gateway” error. This means that the network is having difficulty communicating with the server where the website data is stored. Under normal conditions, 502 Bad Gateway Errors can generally be fixed by reloading the page.
However, the repair wasn’t quite so easy during yesterday’s outage.
Cloudflare 502 Bad Gateway Error Hysteria: What Was the Cause?
Following initial reports of the server outage, many (Cloudflare staff included) suspected an attacker.
However, Matthew Prince, the Cloudflare CEO, was quick to debunk these rumors and come forward with the truth: it was a Cloudflare DDoS error that triggered the outage, not an external issue.
Cloudflare took accountability for this issue on their blog, explaining that the “massive spike in CPU utilization on [their] network” was to blame.
A bug in the Cloudflare firewall consumed a massive portion of the system’s resources, which would normally be allocated toward content delivery.
Prince apologized, recognizing the impact that an outage can have on businesses worldwide.
“We built Cloudflare with a mission of helping build a better Internet and, this morning, we didn’t live up to that,” Prince said in an interview with DCD. “I take personal responsibility for that. And so I think that… it’s disappointing, and it’s painful.”
What Can Business Owners Learn From the Cloudflare Outage?
The obvious lesson here is that a 30-minute server outage can have severe repercussions, potentially impacting millions of organizations, and even more website visitors. But to truly learn and grow from this mishap, it’s important to look past the obvious and draw more important insights.
In a world rife with uncertainty, it’s crucial to be one step ahead of the curve, and even better to be ten steps ahead. It’s impossible to know what awaits you or your company in the future. In this case, it was a technical error that disrupted internet service, costing several businesses a valuable 30 minutes of potential website visits, leads, and profit.
But next time, it could be something else.
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