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"Leap Second" Becomes Giant Problem for Numerous Websites

Loredana BOTEZATU

July 02, 2012

"Leap Second" Becomes Giant Problem for Numerous Websites

A tiny “leap second” added to the world`s clock on Saturday caused Reddit, Foursquare, Mozilla, and other companies significant technical problems, giving birth to a sort of a “leap second bug.”

A leap second is a regularly scheduled insertion of an extra second into the Coordinated Universal Time when official time keepers hold their clocks back by one second to stay synchronized with the Earth rotation. This year the operation was planned for Saturday, June 30th, at midnight Greenwich Mean Time or 5 pm Pacific Time.

Unfortunately for the computer systems – for which milliseconds are crucial – this kind of tuning can cause a great deal of trouble. As a consequence of this time adjustment, numerous websites suffered a severe blockage during the leap second insertion.

The Linux operating system, the Java application platform, and the websites depending on them, for instance, were affected as they are directly linked to the Network Time Protocol to keep themselves aligned with atomic clocks. The software platforms simply didn`t know how to handle the extra second.

Apart from Google, which anticipated the problem, Reddit, Mozilla, Yelp, Foursqare, LinkedIn, Gawker or StumbleUpon never knew what hit them. Linux servers were reported to have crashed, whereas the Australian airline company Qantas reported no less than 50 flight delays.

Plus, as Amazon was recovering from the major outage of its Amazon Web Services web site outsourcing business could not avoid an impact from the leap second either.

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