Is Your Software Ready For The Extra Second?

QArea Team by QArea Team on January 21, 2015

Is Your Software Ready For The Extra Second?
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Leap Second?

Time flies. And does so in most unpredictable ways. Mankind has been fighting desperately on order to keep up with it and there were many measures done to achieve such a goal. The Leap Second is one of such steps. A necessity, rather than mere desire even. This June mankind will be experiencing the mentioned Leap Second. What is it?

There is time on an atomic clock and time called Earth’s rational time. Those clocks require to stay synchronized. Yet Earth is not rotating as it used to hence the rotation is becoming slower by 2.000 of a second on a daily basis. Yet atomic watches are not capable of dealing with such disrespect as are being accurate up to quadrillions of a sec demand appropriate treatment. Surely the situation is not by all means devastating from the beginning yet is easier fixed when small.

This issue is being fixed by implementation of an additional second occasionally. That is why this June 30 will be one second longer. This is the solution from IERS, the International Earth Rotation Service to prevent a situation where people will require multiple watches as days are getting longer.

Possible effect on software

Have you heard of the Millennium Bug? Same may happen here unless you are prepared properly. Things are not really as scary once you are ready. Technically the sittiation is far from the first leap and there were actually 25 of those ever since 1972. But there was no internet and software in 72, right? Let’s take the last Leap for example. It took place in 2012 and has caused major issues for such IT industry giants as LinkedIn, Gizmodo, Reddit, FourSquare, etc.

What is going wrong due something as small as a second? The thing is that second is something extra and is not treated well by programs that prefer precise data. The actual issue is that a computer will be forced to display an additional second rather than simply moving to the next minute as usual. This seems easy. To a human. Computers will understand this as time going backward and you will have a system error and a CPU overload as a result. Painful.

Are there fixes?

Surely the issue may be avoided or prevented if you are aware of it and are getting ready to it in advance. Google for example have a rather smooth solution. They are simply adding a millisecond to their servers once in some while throughout several years. As a result servers are simply not noticing the change.

One more extreme solution will be simply shutting the system down for a couple of hours so the extravagant moment passes unnoticed.

As usual errors are happening due developers were either unaware of such a happening or decided it wasn’t worth attention. And it is simply extra difficult to just predict the Leap Second. But now that you are warned, what will your actions be?

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