August 20, 2007 11:21 AM PDT

Skype's 'unprecedented' outage

Skype's 'unprecedented' outage
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August 17, 2007
Skype has fixed a software bug that made the Internet telephony service almost unusable for two days last week.

According to a statement released by Skype on Monday, the outage--which affected a significant portion of Skype's users--came about Thursday with "a massive restart of our users' computers across the globe within a very short time frame."

The restart stemmed from a routine Windows update. "This caused a flood of log-in requests which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact," Skype's statement said.

The VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) company, which is owned by eBay, admitted that the majority of its users had been unable to access the service between Thursday and Saturday.

A company representative confirmed to ZDNet UK, a CNET sister site, on Monday morning that a fix was now in place for a bug in Skype's network resource allocation algorithm. The bug, revealed for the first time on Thursday, had stopped Skype's built-in "self-healing function" from working properly, causing the most severe outage in the history of the popular VoIP client.

Skype was keen to say that the outage was not the work of hackers or any other malicious activity, and it claimed that its users' security "was not, at any point, at risk."

"This disruption was unprecedented in terms of its impact and scope," the statement said. "We would like to point out that very few technologies or communications networks today are guaranteed to operate without interruptions. We are very proud that over the four years of its operation, Skype has provided a technically resilient communications tool to millions of people worldwide."

Mark Main, a broadband analyst at Ovum, blogged Friday that it was "quite an achievement" for Skype to have gone so long without an outage of this severity. However, he also suggested that Skype's quality of service had been deteriorating recently, and he said that resilience remained a common issue for commercial VoIP services.

"Perhaps we should still consider some VoIP services as being like a shortcut over rocky ground instead of the smoother, but longer and well-trodden path," wrote Main. "Many users may not yet have decided how many jarred ankles they will tolerate over that rocky ground. You still broadly get what you pay for in telecoms and there is a compromise users must accept in these relatively early days of VoIP-based voice services, especially with the free on-net services."

Thirty percent of Skype's 220 million customers are business users, according to the company's own figures, with the vast majority of those choosing Internet telephony to save costs.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Skype, outage, VoIP, IP telephony, VoIP service


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30% of those machines don't auto-login
If 30% are business users.. they didn't auto-login on restart. Plus, I know lots of people who turn it off, or use multiple users on XP.

Isn't their a law for a public company to not lie about something that could affect shares???
Posted by cchenoweth6 (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because all businesses have network admins, right? I'd bet at least 90% (more likely 99%) of businesses that use Skype as their main form of communication do so because they are short-sighted when it comes to cost control. This means they will not see the expense of IT personnell as adding value.

Thus they are self-administrative with their networks which, 9 times out of 10, means they are running the default settings on every program on their computer.
Posted by daftkey (136 comments )
Link Flag
I don't buy it
I just don't buy it. I have to reboot after nearly every update from Microsoft. These updates (most of which require a reboot) have been going on for years. If it really caused the problem, why didn't it cause a problem last month or any of the prior months?

This sounds like a "we're not sure why the problem happened, but it happened at the same time as THIS happened, so it must be THIS" case. It's easy to blame Microsoft and that sounds exactly like what Skype is doing.
Posted by keith.r.benedict (93 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not Blaming MicroSoft
They merely stated that the patch triggered the problem. Which it most likely did.

From Computerworld:

'Although Skype fingered Tuesday's Windows updates for triggering the outage, it said the root cause was "a previously unseen software bug within the network resource-allocation algorithm" that prevented the network from recovering on its own, as it was supposed to do.'
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
In A Sense, They Could Be Right
It is certainly possible that Skype introduced a bug somewhere along the line in their software so that it no longer handled a large number of simultaneous logins. But that would have to have occurred between the last Patch Tuesday and this one.

On the other hand, we get boloney explanations from companies all the time about system failures. Just last week it was the passenger clearing system at LAX. The two outages were "supposed" to have been caused by a bad network card. Maybe, maybe not.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Link Flag
C'mon Skype...that's a bunch of bull. Users' systems rebooting and auto-logging in caused Skype to go down for a couple of days? Didn't Skype just confess to having up to 9 million users logged in at some point? I think your system is robust enough to handle some concurrent logins.

Please rethink your reply and get us the REAL story. Stop blaming Microsoft...
Posted by yipcanjo (75 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Proof, there's no free lunch.
Most Skype users are probably completely unaware that Skpe uses their computers to power its telecom network via peer-to-peer services. They probably thought they were getting "free" telephone service all along.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Failure to plan for predictable events.
Saying that their outage was caused by a regular Windows Update that caused end user machines to reboot and that stressed Skype's login servers is simply ridiculous.

Can they honestly say they couldn't predict that would happen? Was this the first time Microsoft has ever released an update that required a reboot? I mean come on, they've been doing that for over a decade now. Surely Skype would have noticed that and figured that into their planning.

I just don't buy it.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh oh oh
...we seem to have Microsoft crusaders in the house!

Any administrator who manages a a network of more than 100
machines now what havoc can be created (and I do write: CAN
be) by Microsoft automatic update. In fact, even when you plan a
schedule update (like at night) for all your PCs and another night
for the server, even when you know what the update is about
and what it should be doing, you NEVER REALLY know what the
end result will be like...

How many times did I had to come in early to restart some
Exchange services, manually disconnect and reconnect USB2
devices, etc. following a Windows update...

How many times have I witnessed unusual IP activity from the
workstations following a Windows update...

I'm not having a go at Microsoft, or pitting them against another
platform. It's just reality
Posted by jmdunys (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Skype's devious installer at fault
It's Skype's conceit and devious installer that is at fault.

Their installer implants Skype to start up automatically. If you remove the startup, it reinstalls it automatically unless the user disables auto-startup with each and every login.

It's the same with Yahoo Messenger.

All these conceited IM software developers think everyone want's their IM to run all the time.

They can't blame anyone except themselves.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
skype & IM installers, auto-start
Perhaps you have no clue what you're doing, or maybe just not saving your settings, but I have myspace, aol, yahoo, msn, trillian, and pidgin IM. NONE of these start with my system, and only run when I ask it to.
Many installers ask you upon installation (sometimes in "advanced" configuration) if you want it to start with the system. I tell it no. If not, you can go into the settings and turn it off.
Just to make sure, you can type "msconfig" at the run prompt, and make sure it's unchecked in the startup tab.

While the big-name messengers may be bloated & crappy (why I use trillian/pidgin mostly), they aren't so devious as to blatantly disregard a settings change. That's your own fault.
Posted by Ck87.JF (3 comments )
Link Flag
Contradictory statements
1. "The restart stemmed from a routine Windows update."

2. "Skype was keen to say that the outage was not the work of hackers or any other malicious activity, "

You can have one or the other, but not both. ;

Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too much indignation
Skype is a fun application that (mis?)uses other peoples resources.
If you (mis)use it for serious/business things, it's your own fault. Use a professional VOIP service.
Posted by Carion (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Skype reboot
If Skype want's to make sure that there would be no outages becasue of a reboot after a software update or upgrade, they should switch over to Linux. No reboots are necessary after an update has been accomplished. And Linux is more stable than Windows. I know, I use both.
Posted by ONEderer (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I could be wrong, I have had a very rough day, however as I read the story, It was not the Skype severs that were rebooting. It was the clients all rebooting at the same time.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag

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