Meta calls for the death of the leap second

Meta is putting its considerable weight behind the tech industry’s efforts to eliminate the leap second. In an article on the company’s engineering blog, production engineer Meta Oleg Obleukhov and research scientist Ahmad Byagowi Talk about how a leap second can wreak havoc on a network, as well as the solution Meta implements to prevent outages and the problems they could cause.

The leap second was introduced in 1972 to adjust Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and compensate for the difference between International Atomic Time (TAI), which is measured by atomic clocks, and the inaccurate Observed Solar Time (UT1). Sometimes they don’t match due to irregularities and the slowing of the Earth’s rotation caused by various climatic and geological events, such as the melting and refreezing of ice caps on the highest mountains.

As Obleukhov and Byagowi note, the lag created by a leap second can cause problems throughout the industry. In 2012, for example, it took Reddit down for 40 minutes when the daylight saving time disrupted its servers and shackled its processors. A time jump added in 2017 also affected Cloudflare’s DNS service.

To avoid unwanted outages, Meta and other technology companies, such as Google and Amazon, use a technique called “smearing”. These companies “dirty” a leap second by slowing down or speeding up the clock for a certain number of hours. Meta spreads a leap second for 17 hours, while Google uses a 24-hour smear technique that lasts from noon to noon and encourages everyone to follow suit. That way, a leap second doesn’t create weird timestamps that could mess up networks.

But Meta isn’t advocating adoption of his smearing technique — the goal of his new post is to lend his voice to the movement that calls for the leap second’s retirement. The body responsible for deciding whether to adjust UTC, the International Service of Earth’s Rotation and Reference Systems, has added 27 leap seconds since 1972. Meta thinks that’s enough adjustment for the next millennium. .

The company’s post comes more than a year before the fate of the leap second is decided. In 2015, the International Telecommunication Union discussed the leap second at its World Radiocommunication Conference and came to the conclusion that further studies are needed to understand the impact of dumping. The union is expected to review the results of the studies and consider the proposal to withdraw the leap second at its next conference in 2023.

Meta said in his post:

“Leap second events have caused problems across the industry and continue to pose many risks. As an industry, we encounter problems every time a leap second is introduced. t is such a rare event, it devastates the community every time it occurs. With increasing demand for clock precision across all industries, the leap second is now causing more damage than good, causing disruption and breakdowns.”

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