Skype’s Clarification and Acceptance of Responsibility

In an unattributed statement this morning (Eastern time), Skype has issued "The Microsoft connection clarified" in which Skype takes full responsibility for the disruption that occurred last week and explains what has been done to avoid a repeat.

We don’t blame anyone but ourselves. The Microsoft Update patches were merely a catalyst — a trigger — for a series of events that led to the disruption of Skype, not the root cause of it. And Microsoft has been very helpful and supportive throughout.

Somehow a "Perfect Storm" combining a flood of reboot activity, described as the catalyst, with Thursday’s Skype traffic patterns overloaded their peer-to-peer network resources and triggered a chain reaction that went critical (as a nuclear physicist would describe it). In the process of uncovering the problem, Skype’s and Microsoft’s developers went through the entire update process to ensure nothing had changed from the past. (Contrary to what legend would have us believe, when I was with Quarterdeck, our engineers worked long hours with Microsoft engineers in the summer of 1990 to make the then newly released Windows 3.1 work with the quasi-competitive DESQview multi-tasking environment in an effort that was critical at that time to Quarterdeck’s ongoing ability to deliver both DESQview and QEMM.)

The Microsoft team was fantastic to work with, and after going through the potential causes, it appeared clearer than ever to us that our software’s P2P network management algorithm was not tuned to take into account a combination of high load and supernode rebooting.

In response to Dan York’s question: "Why were the mass restarts associated with the August 2007 Microsoft updates different from the mass restarts associated with any other month’s Microsoft updates?" Skype responds "… there had not been such a combination of high usage load during supernode rebooting. As a result, P2P network resources were allocated efficiently and self-healing worked fast enough to overcome the challenge."

And should Skype users worry about future Microsoft updates patches and reboots?

The fix means that we’ve tuned Skype’s P2P core so that it can cope with simultaneous P2P network load and core size changes similar to those that occurred on August 16. We’d like to reassure our users across the globe that we’ve done everything we need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

First, appreciation should be issued to the Skype PR and development teams for recognizing that yesterday’s statements left questions hanging and providing this clarification. And for explicitly accepting responsibility for the disruption. I would like to think it was the combination of many blog posts (my FeedDemon/Technorati Keyword search on Skype had a record number of entries yesterday), along with a couple of Skype Group Chats amongst Skype enthusiasts that Skype personnel monitor, that contributed to this clarification.

Some geeks out there will still not be satisfied because they don’t get to look at Skype’s source code; hey, it’s not going to happen! Skype has responded to the general tone of yesterday’s comments and feedback; at this point it’s time to move on and figure out additional ways to take advantage of this low cost, highly robust and most widely used real time conversation service. Bottom line for Skype is to just keep providing a robust, versatile infrastructure for real time conversations.

As Phil points out Skype usage has returned to the peak levels seen last week prior to the outage; users are returning to worldwide low cost conversations. I left my GTalk open all day yesterday with its eight contacts; nobody tried to communicate with me via it. Yet at one point I was back to having a dozen chat windows open with conversations spanning the globe. I think this disruption proved one point; that, when you have over 200 million registered accounts and as many as 9 million users concurrently online, it is awfully difficult to find a replacement for such a range of services with such a breadth of usage.

But there is one more action I would like to see: senior C-level Skype and eBay executives need to personally contact the ten to twenty Skype Extras Partners who have invested so much to provide business-critical applications and services that will be a key driver to two of eBay’s stated objectives for Skype this quarter, namely, to drive user adoption and expand the Skype ecosystem. They need to personally assure these partners that their partnership is valued through all the turmoil of the past week and that Skype has addressed the robustness issue exposed by the disruption. In turn, it’s the partners’s customers who need to know that Skype can be a mission critical communications tool for their ongoing business success. And these Partners can all be reached on Skype!

Tags: Skype, Skype outage 2007, Microsoft, Windows Update, Dan York, Phil Wolff, eBay

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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