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Karan Pratap Singh
Karan Pratap Singh

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System Design: Availability

Availability is the time a system remains operational to perform its required function in a specific period. It is a simple measure of the percentage of time that a system, service, or machine remains operational under normal conditions.

The Nine's of availability

Availability is often quantified by uptime (or downtime) as a percentage of time the service is available. It is generally measured in the number of 9s.

Availability=Uptime(Uptime+downtime) Availability = \frac{Uptime}{(Uptime + downtime)}
If availability is 99.00% available, it is said to have "2 nines" of availability, and if it is 99.9%, it is called "3 nines", and so on.
Availability % Downtime (Year) Downtime (Month) Downtime (Week)
90% (one nine) 36.53 days 72 hours 16.8 hours
99% (two nines) 3.65 days 7.20 hours 1.68 hours
99.9% (three nines) 8.77 hours 43.8 minutes 10.1 minutes
99.99% (four nines) 52.6 minutes 4.32 minutes 1.01 minutes
99.999% (five nines) 5.25 minutes 25.9 seconds 6.05 seconds
99.9999% (six nines) 31.56 seconds 2.59 seconds 604.8 milliseconds
99.99999% (seven nines) 3.15 seconds 263 milliseconds 60.5 milliseconds
99.999999% (eight nines) 315.6 milliseconds 26.3 milliseconds 6 milliseconds
99.9999999% (nine nines) 31.6 milliseconds 2.6 milliseconds 0.6 milliseconds

Availability in Sequence vs Parallel

If a service consists of multiple components prone to failure, the service's overall availability depends on whether the components are in sequence or in parallel.


Overall availability decreases when two components are in sequence.

Availability (Total)=Availability (Foo)Availability (Bar) Availability \space (Total) = Availability \space (Foo) * Availability \space (Bar)
For example, if both Foo and Bar each had 99.9% availability, their total availability in sequence would be 99.8%.


Overall availability increases when two components are in parallel.

Availability (Total)=1(1Availability (Foo))(1Availability (Bar)) Availability \space (Total) = 1 - (1 - Availability \space (Foo)) * (1 - Availability \space (Bar))
For example, if both Foo and Bar each had 99.9% availability, their total availability in parallel would be 99.9999%.

Availability vs Reliability

If a system is reliable, it is available. However, if it is available, it is not necessarily reliable. In other words, high reliability contributes to high availability, but it is possible to achieve high availability even with an unreliable system.

High availability vs Fault Tolerance

Both high availability and fault tolerance apply to methods for providing high uptime levels. However, they accomplish the objective differently.

A fault-tolerant system has no service interruption but a significantly higher cost, while a highly available system has minimal service interruption. Fault-tolerance requires full hardware redundancy as if the main system fails, with no loss in uptime, another system should take over.

This article is part of my open source System Design Course available on Github.

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