Readying Your Data Center to Deal With Traffic Surges
DDOS attacks aren't the only thing that can bring down your facility - legitimate traffic can too, if you're unprepared.
By Tim Mullahy
On October 1, global streaming service Netflix suffered a severe, worldwide outage. Lasting from 3PM to 5PM Eastern Time, it was the most significant downtime suffered by the provider since 2012. Although the reason for the outage is still generally unknown, most signs seem to point to a massive, unexpected surge in traffic following the release of Luke Cage.
As noted by Engadget, it wouldn't be the first time Netflix has run into issues with launch day demands. Traffic spikes caused by shows such as House of Cards and Daredevil have caused the service to lag in the past, as well - though perhaps not quite to the extent that it crashed. It's unlikely that Netflix lost much business due to the downtime, nor did it likely lose any subscribers.
But imagine if the same thing happened to your data center. Imagine if, as a result of an unexpected surge in traffic, your facility went offline for several hours. How much business would you lose?
How many customers and clients would go elsewhere? How much money would it cost you? How badly would it damage your reputation? In order to ensure you never have to find out the answer to these questions, you need a load balancing solution - something robust and powerful enough to handle any traffic demands you throw at it.
"Using load balancing, you can repurpose that capacity and add it into the balancing act," writes Tech Republic's Conner Forrest. "This directly affects your business's bottom line. Load balancing allows you to change backends during deploys and change the way traffic works with filters and rules and a plethora of other capabilities...It gives you the ability to change the way that your service is implemented in the backend, without exposing any changes to the people who are consuming your service."
At the same time, you also need to make yourself aware of when traffic surges are likeliest to happen, so you can preemptively scale your load balancers in preparation:
- If you or any of your clients work in eCommerce, expect massive traffic surges on occasions such as Christmas, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day.
- For travel or tourism, be ready for massive traffic in the months leading up to vacation primetime.
- Work in entertainment or gaming? Be ready to support a massive server load during the release period for new media.
- Did your business or one of your client's businesses recently appear in a now-viral news story? Get ready for a ton of new traffic.
In addition to shoring up your load balancers, you should also take measures to cut down on illegitimate traffic such as DDOS attacks and search engine bots. For the DDOS attacks, a mitigation plan and a dynamic, anti-ddos load balancer are key. For bots, consider setting up a blacklist that you can expand as-needed.
The more server resources you leave available for legitimate users, the better.
Netflix's outage should serve as a cautionary tale for data center operators. Traffic surges will happen. You need to make sure you aren't caught unprepared.