Jump from the Stratosphere: The “Felix effect” on the web

October 14 was an historic day. For the first time, a man (Felix Baumgartner) broke the sound barrier by jumping from the stratosphere, beating three previous records. After the Olympic Games this summer, and past events such as the election of Barack Obama which generated millions of connections, this event appears to have been among the highest ever in generating Internet video traffic.

So how did the Internet hold up? We have compiled a summary of web performance issues that are related to this kind of peak traffic event.

Youtube: 8 million users … live!

YouTube saw more than 8 million simultaneous users connected to watch this feat of extreme skydiving. A real “stress test” for the site which demonstrated its ability to draw a crowd to a live event, but the quality of the user experience was visibly random. Indeed, we have seen thousands of tweets that report problems of image quality (frequent buffering). Peering links saturation with certain ISPs appears to be the most likely cause of this quality degradation.

Some users encounter a 502 error shortly after the show:

AMSIX: “No effect for us”

On Twitter, AMSIX, one of the most significant Internet traffic exchange points in Europe, said it had not seen a significant traffic spike. This suggest that private interconnects (PNI) were being used for many ISPs.

CARIX : « Felix effect », thank you CDN ?

According to an another tweet from the AMSIX team, the small Caribbean IXP “CarIX” did see a traffic spike. Looking at the list of members, we see two important members: Akamai and Google-Youtube (GGC). Maybe a platform for streaming videos (YT, uStream …) was based on the CDN to ensure part of the stream…

FranceIX: 150Gbits with help of Baumgartner

The main exchange point in France saw and survived the traffic peak. We observed this result during the show.

Interesting, we noted a traffic peak on FranceIX POP “ITX5” that is connected to… Akamai.

Cedexis measures during the event

Shown below is a Radar view of Akamai traffic in France, during the live event. You can see the increasing demands on their Bandwidth during the event and the impact on Throughput, which tapered back to normal after the broadcast concluded.

RIPE : IXP Traffic Levels During the Stratos Skydive

Published after this blog post, RIPE also compiled some data from European IXP. The effect on the global traffic is visible, only for some IXP.

Traffic volume at VIX (Vienna, Austria) during Stratos jump – Source : RIPE NCC blog

Dan Rayburn: A record, really?

For the content delivery specialist blogger Dan Rayburn, declaring this event a true broadcast (webcast) record remains to be demonstrated. A perspective on his blog.

ISP TalkTalk: A peak but no record

The site ISPReview reported in an article that the UK ISP “TalkTalk” has experienced a traffic peak (460Gbps), but it has not exceeded the previous peak associated with a major update initiated by Apple earlier this year. Apple remains stronger than Baumgartner.

Cedexis exclusive information: +8% of global trafic for a major ISP in France

The French people were, apparently, keen to follow the exploits of the Austrian skydiver. One of the most important access providers in the French market (sorry, no names) tells us that “the overall traffic on our network increased by 8% on October 14”… It is easy to imagine that these additional tens of gigabits were injected into the network by Youtube and various CDNs.

Conclusion

This incredible human achievement was greatly aided by technology to reach millions of viewers, also providing some nice global visibility to the main brand sponsor, Red Bull.

The impact and performance of this event on Internet networks reflects the increasing ability of the Web to enable Youtube and other streaming services as viable channels for video in the next few years. Of course, ensuring broadcast quality for all users remains a elusive objective. It is this challenge we are determined to meet.

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