Hardening the Registers: A Cascading Failure of Edge Induced Fault Tolerance

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2022-06-23 14:30:05

In 2017, Target announced that we had prioritized stores at the center of how we serve our guests – no matter how they choose to shop. To make this store-as-hubs model work, we spent several years redesigning operations and modernizing how we conduct business. We invested billions of dollars into remodeling stores, hardened our world-class supply chain, and created a robust suite of fulfillment options to meet every guest need.

Last Sunday was Father’s Day in the U.S. and I found myself thinking back to what’s known internally as “the Father’s Day incident” – a tech issue that occurred in 2019. Though this was not recent, our team’s learnings continue to guide Target’s tech and engineering processes today – so much so, that we think an internal recap from a few years ago remains relevant for other engineering teams operating in complex and distributed systems. One of Target’s core values is "drive" – learn through progress over perfection – and we hope this analysis helps others learn alongside.

What follows is our account of “the Father’s Day incident” which significantly changed, for the better, how we operate enterprise technology at Target. We share more broadly how we use architecture to continually improve our system resiliency and how we actively engineer to mitigate and reduce the impact of service outages.

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