Wikipedia’s Outage Culprit: A Severed Cable

Note: Note actual cable responsible for Wikipedia outage.

Wikipedia suffered an outage Monday, Aug. 6 that the organization blamed on a severed network cable between its two U.S. data centers.

On its live status page, Wikipedia also reported problems on the morning of Aug. 7 as well, although it was unknown whether the incidents are related or not. At post time, the Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees the sites, had not commented.

Wikipedia is just the latest high-profile site to suffer a recent outage, joining Twitter, Google Talk, Windows Azure, and Dreamhost.

CT Woo, director of technical operations for Wikipedia, wrote in a blog posting that Websites on the Wikimedia network experienced an outage Aug. 6 starting at 6:15 AM PDT. Except for the mobile site, the sites were brought back up by 7:18 AM PDT, and mobile services resumed at about 8:35 AM.

“At about 6:15am PDT, we were alerted to a site issue and our team found severed network connectivity between our two data centers,” Woo wrote. “Upon checking with our network provider, they informed us that the outage was caused by a fiber cut between the two data centers.

“The data centers—one in Ashburn, Virginia and the other in Tampa, Florida—are connected by two separate fiber links (for redundancy), Woo added. “While Ashburn serves most of the traffic, it needs to talk to our Tampa data center for backend services (e.g. database).”

Wikipedia operates two separate 10-Gbits/s cables connecting the two sites, designed to provide redundancy in the event of a problem. “We are now working with our network provider to determine how and why we were impacted by that fiber cut when we are supposed to have redundancy in our network,” the posting read. “We are still waiting for their full report.”

The Wikipedia team rerouted traffic to the Tampa facility, bypassing the Ashburn site. One of the network links was restored at 8:35 AM PT, while the second link returned at 11:30 AM PT.

The hordes took to Twitter to comment, noting that with Wikipedia down, it was impossible to accurately determine when Wikipedia has last been down. “Largest cybersecurity threat: scissors,” added Rintze Zelle.

The site’s problems appeared to carry over through Tuesday, with Wikipedia’s dashboard page continuing to report issues with several of the site’s servers, including the mobile server. It was unclear, however, whether the site’s latest problems were related to the data center cut.

Wikipedia last went dark in January, when Wikipedia turned off its network of sites for one day to protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S.


Image: Milos Luzanin/

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