Network Outage Takes Down ESPN Fantasy Football

App & Website Go Down During Opening Sunday
A major network outage took down ESPN's Fantasy Football website and app during the first NFL Sunday of the season, sparking outrage across the internet.

Week one of the 2016 NFL regular season was a roller coaster ride for fans. Kansas City overcame a three touchdown deficit to win in overtime. Oakland toppled the Saints by converting a two-point play with under a minute left. And Terrance Williams’ inability to get out of bounds with seconds on the clock may have cost the Cowboys a victory against division rival New York.

But the fumble of the week goes to ESPN. The company’s fantasy football site experienced an unexpected outage soon after kickoff for Sunday’s early games.

ESPN’s Major Fumble received over 90,000 reports of issues during this time. According to ESPN, a “backend data access issue” caused the disruption, which impacted users trying to access fantasy football scores on both ESPN’s web site and app.

Service was eventually restored, but not before fans had a chance to take to Twitter about the problems:

This isn’t the first time ESPN suffered such an outage with their fantasy site. It happened the first week of the 2014 NFL regular season, as well.

Though damaging to the ESPN brand, we have to keep things in perspective. This was not a life threatening outage. A fantasy football site is not as critical as a healthcare provider’s infrastructure, a stock exchange, or tier 1 service provider’s network. But it does cause frustration for customers and potentially impacts company revenue.

It also proves once again how fragile IT infrastructure can be under the strain of increased consumer demand. Tens of millions of fantasy football participants hammer away at online services throughout the NFL season. These participants expect the companies supporting the sites to ensure a high level of service availability.

The Best Defense…

In sports, you often hear the cliché, “The best defense is a good offense.” When it comes to assuring the delivery of applications and services, I&O leaders have a number of options in their playbook.

First, modern IT has shifted towards increasingly software-defined infrastructure. When applications experience unexpected surges in demand, they may dynamically scale their resources or burst to the cloud to handle the increased workload.

Second, IT Ops relies heavily on infrastructure performance monitoring solutions that can predict potential service delivery issues. The more IT teams can remain on the offensive and cease reacting to issues like the ESPN fantasy site outage, the better off they’ll be.

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