Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Skype: Microsoft patch triggered outage

Last Tuesday, August 14, the great Redmond giant released another one of its patch batches claiming to fix (at least) 14 operating system security holes in computers powered by different versions of Windows and MS Office. The updates were pushed to millions of MS users all over the world using the Microsoft's "Automatic Updates" system.

Windows XP users were pushed with at least six updates from this patch batch, and more if they have any version of Microsoft Office installed. Office 2000 users had to scan the Office Update site for additional fixes not offered via Microsoft Updates.

On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the whole world was amazed to watch how Skype's legendary peer-to-peer network - used by millions for VOIP communications - had actually crashed and became unstable for about 48 hours. According to an official announcement released yesterday by Skype the crash was triggered by a massive global restart of Microsoft based computers across the globe within a very short timeframe. Also according to Skype:

The high number of restarts affected Skype’s network resources. 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.

Normally Skype’s peer-to-peer network has an inbuilt ability to self-heal, however, this event revealed a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm which prevented the self-healing function from working quickly. Regrettably, as a result of this disruption, Skype was unavailable to the majority of its users for approximately two days.

According to Washington Post blog a Microsoft spokesperson claimed the August 14 patch release - fixing at least 14 vulnerabilities in its software - was "hardly out of the ordinary" and that "Windows Update is a routine service Microsoft provides to its users to receive software updates, including last Tuesday's security updates, which were not unique," the spokesperson said. "As indicated in Skype's blog, their specific disruption was caused by a bug in their software."

Did you get that? fixing at least 14 vulnerabilities in a software is "hardly out of the ordinary". There are many common jokes about the need to restart Windows based systems but I think this last one is certainly one of the best amongst them. We'll still have to live and see how funny this joke is for Skype / eBay, their engineers and their managers.

By now there are 435 blog responses to Skype message on Technorati.

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