A Social Network Under Social Distancing: Risk-Driven Backbone Management During COVID-19 and Beyond


Yiting Xia, MPI-INF and Facebook; Ying Zhang, Facebook; Zhizhen Zhong, MIT and Facebook; Guanqing Yan, Chiun Lin Lim, Satyajeet Singh Ahuja, Soshant Bali, and Alexander Nikolaidis, Facebook; Kimia Ghobadi, Johns Hopkins University; Manya Ghobadi, MIT


As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes our social landscape, its lessons have far-reaching implications on how online service providers manage their infrastructure to mitigate risks. This paper presents Facebook's risk-driven backbone management strategy to ensure high service performance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We describe Risk Simulation System (RSS), a production system that identifies possible failures and quantifies their potential severity with a set of metrics for network risk. With a year-long risk measurement from RSS we show that our backbone resiliently withstood the COVID-19 stress test, achieving high service availability and low route dilation while efficiently handling traffic surges. We also share our operational practices to mitigate risk throughout the pandemic.

Our findings give insights to further improve risk-driven network management. We argue for incorporating short-term failure statistics in modeling failures. Common failure prediction models based on long-term modeling achieve stable output at the cost of assigning low significance to unique short-term events of extreme importance such as COVID-19. Furthermore, we advocate augmenting network management techniques with non-networking signals. We support this by identifying and analyzing the correlation between network traffic and human mobility.

NSDI '21 Open Access Sponsored by NetApp

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@inproceedings {265067,
author = {Yiting Xia and Ying Zhang and Zhizhen Zhong and Guanqing Yan and Chiun Lin Lim and Satyajeet Singh Ahuja and Soshant Bali and Alexander Nikolaidis and Kimia Ghobadi and Manya Ghobadi},
title = {A Social Network Under Social Distancing: Risk-Driven Backbone Management During COVID-19 and Beyond},
booktitle = {18th {USENIX} Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation ({NSDI} 21)},
year = {2021},
isbn = {978-1-939133-21-2},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/nsdi21/presentation/xia},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = apr,