Facebook crash reveals legacy’s DNS powers

On the morning of October 5, a massive chunk of the world’s social media went dark. Facebook, and all its allied properties such as the messaging WhatsApp and Instagram’s alluring billboards, vanished for about five hours.

One of the parts of the crash is a technical service that HP legacy users consider crucial. Domain Name Services (DNS) places legacy systems like OpenVMS and MPE/iX into the connected column.

DNS springs from the magic of Unix, including the operating systems that drive Sun’s servers and the Solaris OS. During the 1990s, Unix rose up as a networking pillar. Hewlett-Packard sales forces even pitted the Unix unique capabilies against MPE/iX. Sun Microsystems became “the dot in dot-com.”

HP 3000 owners and managers saw the crucial need for DNS in the MPE/iX environment. Starting as a freeware project, DNS for HP 3000s made its way into fundamental operating system software in the late 1990s. DNS lets customers who want HP 3000s on intranets, or even the Internet, skip Windows PCs or more complex Unix systems as gateways to an IP network.

Facebook’s pratfall

Cloudflare reports that a failure of DNS networking is the reason for the Facebook outage. Typing facebook.com led to a vague Facebook error page.

“Their DNS names stopped resolving,” writes Celso Martinho and Tom Strickx, “and their infrastructure IPs were unreachable. It was as if someone had “pulled the cables” from their data centers all at once and disconnected them from the Internet.”

Data from a “network of networks” Border Gateway Protocol led to routes being withdrawn. Facebook’s DNS servers went offline.

Events of Oct. 5 “are a gentle reminder that the Internet is a very complex and interdependent system of millions of systems and protocols working together,” Cloudflare reports. “That trust, standardization, and cooperation between entities are at the center of making it work for almost five billion active users worldwide.”

DNS is one of the key elements in the new OpenVMS systems designed by VMS Systems Inc. VSI worked through several release points before it could deliver DNS. The efforts rise from what’s probably the most complex software project for a legacy OS provider.

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