Monday, August 20, 2007

Skype: The Ultimate Windows Externality

"On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption triggered by a massive restart of our users’ Windows-based computers across the globe within a very short time frame as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update," Skype says.

Not everybody buys that explanation. But, if true, it has to rank as the most massive, unexpected software interaction Windows ever has inadvertently caused.

The high number of restarts apparently caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction, Skype says. Some have argued that the outage proves peer-to-peer networks are inherently unstable.

It's hard to test that assertion since Skype uses a modified P2P architecture with a sign-in process that is more "client-server" and centralized than most other P2P networks.

Some think there was some sort of hacker attack, but Skype denies it. "We can confirm categorically that no malicious activities were attributed."

If the Microsoft routine updates were, in fact, contributory or causal, it would rank as the most significant network-wide interaction anybody ever has seen. Just another example of the way applications are reshaping the way global networks perform.

As some of you know I have recently been dealing with interactions caused by a Vista upgrade, mostly of the "we don't talk to Vista" sort. I will say one thing, however. Vista seems to be much more robust than XP was about handling "hibernation" operations. XP used to become unstable after several hiberation operations, at least on my machines. I have not found that to be the case with Vista.

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