DNS Outage on 2023-01-25

Feb. 8, 2023 · Jan David Nose on behalf of The Rust Infrastructure Team

On Wednesday, 2023-01-25 at 09:15 UTC, we deployed changes to the production infrastructure for crates.io. During the deployment, the DNS record for static.crates.io failed to resolve for an estimated time of 10-15 minutes. Users experienced build failures during this time, because crates could not be downloaded. Around 9:30 UTC, the DNS record started to get propagated again and by 9:40 UTC traffic had returned to normal levels.

Root Cause of the Outage

The Rust infrastructure is managed with Terraform, a tool to configure and provision infrastructure-as-code. The Infrastructure team recently made changes to this configuration to separate the staging and production environments for crates.io so that both can be deployed independently of each other.

This feature was used to develop and test the infrastructure for a second Content Delivery Network (CDN) for static.crates.io in the staging environment. When the configuration was ready, we scheduled and announced the rollout for January 25th.

The deployment to production contained two changes that were developed, deployed, and tested individually on staging: a new TLS certificate for the current Content Delivery Network and updated DNS records.

When we deployed this configuration to production, Terraform first removed the current certificate and DNS records. It then started to issue a new certificate, which took around 10 minutes. During this time, there was no DNS record for static.crates.io and users experienced build failures. After the new certificate was provisioned, Terraform recreated the DNS records.


The outage resolved itself after Terraform finished the deployment and created a new DNS record for static.crates.io. For some users, the outage lasted a few minutes longer due to caches in their DNS server.


The outage could have been avoided by deploying the changes to the TLS certificate and DNS records individually. We have identified two reasons why this did not happen as well as lessons that we are taking from this.

This was one of the first times that we used the new tooling around environments to deploy changes to production. One of its features is that the production environment is locked to a specific Git commit. When deploying in the past, we set this to the latest commit on master. This was done here as well, with the consequence that the deployment applied multiple changes simultaneously.

Another way to look at this is that production and staging diverged too much over time, because we did not deploy the changes when we merged them into the main branch. If we had deployed the changes when they were merged into the main branch, we would have isolated the DNS change. But given the importance of crates.io to the Rust ecosystem, we were hesitant to deploy multiple times without announcing the changes to the community first.

The lessons that we are taking away from this incident are as follows:

  • We need to document the process of deploying changes to production, in particular how to pick the Git commit and how to review the changeset. Defining a process will enable us to iterate and improve it over time, and avoid the same issue in the future.
  • Changes that have been developed and tested in isolation on staging should be deployed individually and in sequence to production. We need to add this to the documentation.
  • When we merge changes into the main branch, we need to ensure that they get deployed to production as well. This avoids a drift between the configuration in Git and what is deployed.