The increase in sustained internet traffic brought about by coronavirus lockdowns has led to a speculative infrastructure that can crumble under load.
Although cloud-based services (such as Zoom and Microsoft teams) have experienced outages – possibly due to increased traffic – and broadband providers have experienced service outages, the UK has yet to experience significant downtime outside of usual margins.
VPNOnlineFree Pro talked to a network monitoring company A thousand eyes on the performance of the UK's Internet infrastructure, the challenges facing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and how the pandemic could affect Internet services in the future.
The company detects network performance issues by actively probing networks from thousands of views around the world. It takes billions of measurements every day, detecting cases in which traffic ends within ISPs and the networks of public cloud providers, UCaaS providers and peripheral service providers.
According to ThousandEyes, this fault detection mechanism is very specific, making it possible to isolate traffic termination incidents up to the interfaces of the infrastructure involved.
How do you go about finding faults?
ThousandEyes detects network performance issues (including failures) through an active network probe from viewpoints around the world. The resulting network telemetry data covers latency, packet loss and other key performance indicators.
Although packet loss of any level can be potentially disruptive to users, ThousandEyes defines a failure as an incident involving 100% packet loss, where traffic ends completely at some point in the network.
Since the introduction of lockdowns, how would you rate the performance of the UK Internet infrastructure?
The performance of the UK internet infrastructure has varied during the lockdown, but overall has held up well.
Compared to the global scale, outages in the UK remained broadly low, standing at 21 during the first week of lockout, the second week rising to 28. A significant reduction was observed during the third week with only 10 breakdowns, before observing a slight increase in the fourth week with 13.
How is the Internet in the UK compared to other countries?
About a third of all outages in the first quarter of this year have occurred in the EMEA region. Although the duration and extent of many outages suggests that they were the result of network operators optimizing performance as traffic levels increased, we have also seen a marked increase in outages among network providers. ” collaborative applications, including videoconferencing services.
Comparatively, the internet in the UK has worked well. We saw outages increase in mid-March, but when a second global rise occurred in early April, the UK was little affected.
What types of damage have been caused by the recent failures that you have identified?
The impact of outages may vary depending on the location, time and extent of the outage. In general, when Tier 1 ISPs, broadband providers and large transit providers experience outages, the impact of consumers and businesses can be significant.
The recent Tata Communications outage had wide geographic implications, as did the CenturyLink outage last week, which caused Merrill Lynch to report publicly on disruptions to its brokerage business. Many other large companies experienced service disruption throughout the outage. Overall, the financial impact may well be in the millions of dollars.
What have been the main causes of breakdowns in recent weeks?
Failures can occur for many reasons, including infrastructure failure, fiber outage, and configuration error, which makes them difficult to predict.
Throughout the month of March, as traffic usage increased to support remote work, online school and leisure activities, the duration and extent of network outages have increased compared to the pre-coronavirus. These characteristics do not correspond to breakdowns related to congestion. Instead, they suggest an increase in traffic engineering activity by network operators – likely to respond to the increase in traffic usage.
What are the biggest challenges facing ISPs today?
Overall, ISPs have performed well given the significantly increased network usage. As traffic volumes increased, many reported an increase in bandwidth and connectivity demands from their customers and peers. Responding to a large number of service requests may have been a challenge for some providers.
ISPs are also subject to further scrutiny, given the dependence of users on the Internet. Even problems unrelated to network usage, such as fiber cuts, can provide unwanted light.
Failures are inevitable, however, even under normal Internet conditions, and solid network strategy and operations will continue to be the best methods of limiting their occurrence.
Do you anticipate any changes in the way services are consumed in the future?
The overnight transition to a remote workforce and customer base has made one thing very clear to many businesses: they depend on a well-functioning Internet to power all of those online services and applications that are at the heart employee and consumer experience.
In the future, we may see a change in the way businesses invest and use certain Internet services. ISPs can also review their service and investment priority given the heavy use of consumer networks.