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Summary:

There were an average of nine site outages a day during November 2012 through March 2013 caused by a reliance on third-party apps such as ad servers or social media buttons.

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Between ad serving companies, analytics and social links, the modern web site has become dependent on other services to build its page. A map from Compuware illustrates both how true this is and tracks how the number of third-party services used has risen by 25 percent in just a year. For users this has real consequences in slower load times and the potential for more outages.

In short, your favorite web site is only as resilient as its weakest third-party analytics or ad provider. Yes, this data was collected by a firm that makes money monitoring outages for big customers (you can track said outages in real time here), but the overall interdependencies shown in this map and study are being replicated across all aspects of our web lives.

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The data showed that ad servers and social media components are the weakest links and during a five-month period spanning 2012 and 2013 Compuware tracked 1,413 service outages (an average of 282 per month or 9 daily). That’s a lot, although the company didn’t provide data on how long those outages last on average or even the median.

The idea of federated applications built from linking different services together, is becoming more common. Companies relying on the cloud are introducing a third-party vendor that might go down into their IT operations and services. This isn’t going to change. Replicating non-essential services using your own infrastructure and engineers when those services are otherwise available via an API call or a third-party widget makes good business sense as long as they are mostly reliable.

But this does means that web site operators and application architects must recognize these new failure points and built around that. Netflix might be the best example of a company that recognizes this new paradigm of relying on third-party services and is adapting to it. Other companies such as Deepfield and New Relic are also trying to create monitoring and mitigation products for clouds. And as evident, on the web site and application front, there are a number of companies from Compuware to Pingdom that are trying to make relying on others less of a risk.

  1. It’s not just about availability, but also about performance.

    Slow performing third party apps…and the sheer number loaded on single page are one of the primary reason page renders on major sites consider to hover in the 8-10 second range.

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