Skype Outage: Blame It on Users Failing to Upgrade Software

Skype Outage: Blame It on Users Failing to Upgrade Software

Blame it on older Windows clients. That's the verdict, forensically, from Skype's investigation into what caused the recent massive Skype outage.

Skype is a P2P service, and relies on supernodes, which exist outside firewalls, for its directory service. The current Windows version of Skype is 5.0.0.156. However, a bug in 5.0.0.152 caused those clients to crash. Here's what Skype said:
On Wednesday, December 22, a cluster of support servers responsible for offline instant messaging became overloaded. As a result of this overload, some Skype clients received delayed responses from the overloaded servers. In a version of the Skype for Windows client (version 5.0.0152), the delayed responses from the overloaded servers were not properly processed, causing Windows clients running the affected version to crash.
The worst news is that around 50 percent of all Skype users globally were running the 5.0.0.152 version of Skype for Windows. The crashes caused approximately 40 percent of those clients to fail. In effect, 20 percent of clients overall failed, as the newer client, older (4.0) Windows clients, and clients on other platforms were unaffected by the initial problem.

However, once those 5.0.0.152 Windows clients crashed, that meant a number of supernodes, approximately 25 – 30 percent, failed. That's when things really started to fail on the Skype network.

What can Skype do to keep this from happening again? They will be reviewing their procedures for "automatic" updates to end users, but in addition to that the company outlined plans, including strengthening their core systems, in their forensic blog post.

In addition, the company sent an email to affected users, issuing a $1 credit voucher for the inconvenience. While that seems ludicrously small, it should be noted that landline companies don't give users a credit for an outage, nor do broadband companies. Thus, it's not as bad a deal as it might sound.
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I think this is all factually incorrect. Skype already auto-updates on Windows (& Linux, if you installed it via their repo). I don't think you can even disable the auto-update in v5.

I've seen tons of people griping that their v4 was updated to v5 against their will before this even happened.

If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me.  But, why have I seen a half dozen people complaining of *this* before the problem?

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One more thing: I just found an analysis elsewhere that also says that Skype's supernodes are designed to *shut down* if they become overloaded, so as to not abuse the bandwidth of the user.

It sounds like they never accounted for a scenario where tons of their buggy Windows clients crash, then overload the supernodes on the non-Windows boxes (which would have continued running the network, had they not been programmed to shut down): Their system was basically designed for cascade failure.

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