Technology Subset

August 2022 – Technology Subset

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In August, we experienced one incident resulting in significant impact and degraded state of availability to Codespaces. This report also sheds light into an incident that impacted Codespaces in July.

August 29 12:51 UTC (lasting 5 hours and 40 minutes)

Our alerting systems detected an incident that impacted most Codespaces customers. Due to the recency of this incident, we are still investigating the contributing factors and will provide a more detailed update on cause and remediation in the September Availability Report, which will publish the first Wednesday of October.

Follow up to July 27 22:29 UTC (lasting 7 hours and 55 minutes)

As mentioned in the July Availability Report, we are now providing a more detailed update on this incident following further investigation. During this incident, a subset of codespaces in the East US and West US regions using 2-core and 4-core machine types could not be created or restarted.

On July 27, 2022 at approximately 21:30 UTC we started experiencing a high rate of failures creating new virtual machines (VMs) for Codespaces in the East US and West US regions. The rate of codespace creations and starts on the 2-core and 4-core machine types exceeded the rate of successful VM creations needed to run, which eventually led to resource exhaustion of the underlying VMs. At 22:29 UTC, the pools for 2-core and 4-core VMs were drained and unable to keep up with demand, so we statused yellow. Impacted codespaces took longer than normal to start while waiting for an available VM, and many ended up timing out and failing.

Each codespace runs on an isolated VM for security. The Codespaces platform builds a host VM image on a regular cadence, and then all host VMs are instantiated from that base image. This incident started when our cloud provider began rolling out an update in the East US and West US regions that was incompatible with the way we built our host VM image. Troubleshooting the failures was difficult because our cloud provider was reporting that the VMs were being created successfully even though some critical processes that were required to be started during VM creation were not running.

We applied temporary mitigations, including scaling up our VM pools to absorb the high failure rate, as well as adjusting timeouts to accelerate failure for VMs that were unlikely to succeed. While these mitigations helped, the failure rate continued to increase as our cloud provider’s update rolled out more broadly. Our cloud provider recommended adjusting our image generalization process in a way that would work with the new update. Once we made the recommended change to our image build pipeline, VM creation success rates recovered and enabled the backlog of queued codespace creation and start requests to be fulfilled with VMs to run the codespaces.

Following this incident, we have audited our VM image building process to ensure it aligns with our cloud provider’s guidance to prevent similar issues going forward. In addition, we have improved our service logic and monitoring to be able to verify that all critical operations are executed during VM creation rather than only looking at the result reported by our cloud provider. We have also updated our alerting to detect VM creation failures earlier before there is any user impact. Together, these changes will prevent this class of issue from happening, detect other failure modes earlier, and enable us to quickly diagnose and mitigate other VM creation errors in the future.

In summary

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress and investments we’re making to ensure the reliability of our services. To receive real-time updates on status changes, please follow our status page. You can also learn more about what we’re working on on the GitHub Engineering Blog.



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