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No, the Internet Does Not ‘Just Work’

The recent GoDaddy DNS outage illustrates that theInternet does not just work and sometimes stuff still breaks just for the sakeof breaking and not because it was 'attacked'.

The parts of the Internet that just work areexceedingly fragile and prone to failure. Those failures keep tens of thousands(perhaps hundreds of thousands?) of people employed worldwide. They keepnumerous large businesses in business. If things just worked there would be alot more people collecting public assistance.

Unfortunately most of these people work behind thescenes in server rooms and telecom closets tucked away in the back recesses andbasements of buildings everywhere. If you actually see them during your workdayyou know something has gone terribly terribly wrong. And you know what, most ofthem like it that way. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you arethe person responsible for maintaining the architecture that lets everyone elseget their job done. If it's your job you don't want to be visible, you let yournetwork uptime speak for itself.

But in these days of iPhones, and talking cars, andautomatic toll collection that all just works it is easy to forget about theinfrastructure that sits behind it all and makes it appear, to you, to justwork. So when it doesn't work people automatically jump to the conclusion thatsomething exceedingly bad has happened and these days with all the cyber warparanoia going around the conclusion is often some sort of 'cyber war attack'.Of course it doesn't help when a few completely unreliable, unconfirmed, andcompletely unrelated people start taking credit in under 140 characters simplyfor the 'lulz'.

People want to believe the outlandish andsensational. They want to believe that an amazing super hacking power hasdescended upon the networks. I mean the Internet just works right? So it mustbe something pretty disastrous to make it not work. People want to believe thisso much that even when a real, official, confirmed explanation comes out theystill want to believe the outlandish crazy one.

Sometimes a simple maintenance or upgrade orother change can greatly impact your production environment. Something simplelike adding a new VLAN can aggravate an underlying design defect that wentunnoticed before. With so many different routers, OSs, commands and syntaxes itis easy to simply issue a wrong command or have a typo that causes a cascadefailure across multiple nodes on your network. In large complex networks thiscan be an absolute nightmare to diagnose and troubleshoot.

This is why you have contingency plans. This is whyyou have test and production servers. This is why you have a back-out plan.Even with all this redundancy bad things can still happen, because, well, badthings sometimes just happen. TheInternet doesn't just work. It is an incredibly fragile complicated RubeGoldberg contraption that if you breathe on it wrong will fall over. No attacknecessary.