You, like everyone at ZDNet UK, may have experienced a dramatic disruption in connectivity to Google earlier today. At the time, it wasn't clear whether it was an Internet issue or something within the bowels of the global Googleplex itself.
Well, Google has accepted responsibility for the problem. Here's what Urs Hoelzle, SVP of Operations at Google, had to say on the official Google blog:
"This is your pilot speaking. Now, about that holding pattern...
5/14/2009 12:15:00 PM
Imagine if you were trying to fly from New York to San Francisco, but your plane was routed through an airport in Asia. And a bunch of other planes were sent that way too, so your flight was backed up and your journey took much longer than expected. That's basically what happened to some of our users today for about an hour, starting at 7:48 am Pacific time.
An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam. As a result, about 14% of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions. We've been working hard to make our services ultrafast and "always on," so it's especially embarrassing when a glitch like this one happens. We're very sorry that it happened, and you can be sure that we'll be working even harder to make sure that a similar problem won't happen again. All planes are back on schedule now. "
Light on technical details and still leaving many questions unanswered (how does 'an error in one of our systems' affect web traffic routing? What happened to create all those enormous packet loss storms and latency lakes that bounced around the ISPs of continental US and Europe?), it's still something.
What was perhaps the most impressive, and worrying, aspect of this was how many other sites are built on Google for search or other API-driven services. Google is becoming the equivalent of a state railway company - which, in the UK at least, started off as independent companies...