Google found a clever way to prevent tomorrow's leap second from crashing its computers


Controlled explosion bomb


Hopefully this won't happen to the internet on June 30.

Google's leap second defence technology is set to get its first field test during Tuesday's fast-approaching 61-second minute.

Leap seconds are a phenomenon that scientists implemented in 1972 as a means to mitigate time anomalies resulting from earth's slowing rotation that affect high-precision clocks and systems built to adhere to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).


The next leap second will occur at 2359 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on June 30.

In the past, however, leap seconds have caused problems within a multitude of electronic systems.

The last leap second that occurred in 2012 is believed to have crashed systems running the Linux and programmes written in the Java coding language, as well as popular online services like LinkedIn.


However, Google claims to have found the answer and has created a custom solution for leap seconds that will protect key technologies, like its Compute Engine.

"Instead of repeating a second, we 'smear' away the extra second. During a 20-hour 'smear window' centered on the leap second, we slightly slow all our servers' system clocks," explained Google in a blog post.

"At the end of the smear window, the entire leap second has been added, and we are back in sync with civil time."


Google claims it created the defence tech based on its experience mitigating a 2005 leap second and expects it to protect all cloud system running on the Compute Engine.

"Most software isn't written to explicitly handle leap seconds, including most of ours. During the 2005 leap second, we noticed various problems like this with our internal systems," explained the blog post.

"To avoid changing all time-using software to handle leaps correctly, we instead attempt to make leaps invisible by adding a little bit of the extra second to our servers' clocks over the course of a day, rather than all at once."


In other words, Google is tricking its servers by adding a very small amount of time to its clocks over a longer period of time.

Key financial services have been less confident about their systems ability to deal with leap seconds and have announced plans to temporarily shut down their systems during the June 30 event.

A NASDAQ spokeswoman confirmed to Business Insider that it will be shutting down after-hours trading a half hour early to deal with the leap second.


The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) announced it will delay its commodity trading markets' opening to mitigate potential harm, in a public statement.

The CME Group similarly announced plans to hold trade talks during the leap second event to avoid any issues, in a separate statement.

"ICE is confident that this will not cause any issues on our systems; however, we cannot guarantee the same for all systems used by our participants, market data vendors, and other third-parties," read the statement.


"As a result, ICE has made the decision to delay all market state transitions which would normally occur between June 30th 23.00 GMT and July 1st 00.01 GMT."

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