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Skype Blames Microsoft Patch Tuesday for Outage 286

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the ddos-ing-yourself dept.
brajesh writes to tell us that Skype has blamed its outage over the last week on Microsoft's Patch Tuesday. Apparently the huge numbers of computers rebooting (and the resulting flood of login requests) revealed a problem with the network allocation algorithm resulting in a couple days of downtime. Skype further stressed that there was no malicious activity and user security was never in any danger.
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Skype Blames Microsoft Patch Tuesday for Outage

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  • Yeah........ (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Clockwurk (577966) *
    Somehow, I don't think thats the real story.
    • Re:Yeah........ (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The Iso (1088207) on Monday August 20, 2007 @12:56PM (#20294249)
      Care to elaborate, Hercule Poirot?
      • Re:Yeah........ (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ulven (679148) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:00PM (#20294307)
        This wasn't exactly the first ever Patch Tuesday. And didn't skype break on a Thursday anyway?
        • Re:Yeah........ (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:03PM (#20294347) Journal
          Yeah, but Patch Tuesday usually involves a dozen patches or less, any handful of which (2-3) might apply to any one system. This one included more than 50 patches, 12 of which were needed by most computers in my office.
          • by imsabbel (611519)
            Actually, many patches should make is _less_ severe, as the reboots are spread across a larger timeframe.
            • by NetDanzr (619387)
              It depends. For the US East Coast, the patches are installed overnight - which would place Europe in the early morning hours and West Coast in the evening, and the machines are rebooted. The vast majority of such computers than hangs on the login screen, so Skype doesn't load. I'd expect the bulk of the oncoming Skype traffic to come at 9AM GMT and then again at 9AM Eastern Time when people logged into their workstations.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by jimstapleton (999106)
            installing two patches, two dozen patches or even two thousand patches...

            You still typically need to reboot when done. In this case, I don't think the load should have been a big issue - other than what was mentioned by another reply, namely that it would increase the variance of time for when the reboots occured (differing connection speeds). This would actually be to the advantage of Skype I'd think.
          • by billstewart (78916) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:16PM (#20294515) Journal
            Skype said the problem wasn't the specific patches, but the fact that everybody rebooted at once. Patch Tuesday doesn't always require rebooting your machine, but my home machine got rebooted; my work machine also rebooted but sometimes that's because of what else my IT department wants to do when they're downloading the Microsoft patches, so it's hard for me to tell.


            Maybe the average machine had more downtime on this month's reboot? Or the reboots happened in a more concentrated time window?

          • But then, if it was the resulting flood of log-ons that caused the problem, either a whole lot of people all got on their computers and logged in to Skype at the same time, or a whole lot of people had their computers reboot after applying the patches all at the same time and had them set up to automatically log in to Windows and Skype (and last time I checked, you needed TweakUI for the former). Either one seems pretty unlikely to me...
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by nigelo (30096)
              Windows XP Home has automatic login as the default, with no username/password screen.
              • Pro does too. I think you only get a login screen if you add multiple users, set a password or do something that disables the welcome screen login system and replaces it with a different one.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              had them set up to automatically log in to Windows and Skype (and last time I checked, you needed TweakUI for the former)

              Faaaaaalse. Since win2k, you've had the built-in ability to select an account, and have your machine behave as if that account was "logging in" automatically.

              Granted, MS makes that setting a little hard to find, something that Tweak UI remedies, but still.
        • Re:Yeah........ (Score:5, Informative)

          by Ucklak (755284) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:24PM (#20294611)
          That's when the patches occurred.

          I had to leave town and usually leave Thunderbird up and running to filter my mail on my IMAP account so my laptop syncs without having to redo all the filters I have in place. After no reboot on Tuesday I was relieved that I wouldn't have an issue with a down T-bird unless the power went out - which never happens unless I leave town (happened only once before).
          Sure enough, none of my mail is filtered after Thursday. Come home this morning and see "Your computer has been recently updated" balloon.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by twitter (104583)

            [Thursday is when Patch Tuesday happened]

            Sometimes it's early, sometimes it's late. Sometimes it's big sometimes you don't notice. Ask your girlfriend about TinyFlacid Windoze.

      • Wiretap law? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by megaditto (982598) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:09PM (#20294431)
        Given that this baby [washingtonpost.com] was steamrolled through the Congress two weeks ago, the outage seems coincidental.

        Consider that Skype could not tell the users of the real reason even if they wanted to: the law mandates that the forced cooperation be kept in secret.
        • Re:Wiretap law? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by orzetto (545509) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:37PM (#20294777)

          Given that this baby [wiretap law] was steamrolled through the Congress two weeks ago, the outage seems coincidental.

          Interesting point, but Skype is based in Luxembourg and has no obligation to US law. Then again, they are owned by eBay, but just because they are owned by a US company does not mean much: they do not have to follow every shareholder's local law.

          • by TubeSteak (669689)

            Interesting point, but Skype is based in Luxembourg and has no obligation to US law. Then again, they are owned by eBay, but just because they are owned by a US company does not mean much
            You think the US Federal Gov't is above bullying a parent company in order to get their wholly owned subsidiary in line?

            Not to mention that Skype has a US office, which means they do have some obligation to follow US laws.
          • how wrong you are (Score:4, Interesting)

            by tacokill (531275) on Monday August 20, 2007 @04:59PM (#20297153)
            You are so, so wrong. If a US company owns them, then they are subject to US law. This is to prevent US based companies from just setting up a shell and providing services to, say....Cuba or any other restricted country. There are countless examples of subsidiaries getting in trouble for things that are illegal in the US -- but not where their offices are.

            Otherwise, Foster Wheeler would just setup a shell in another country and start building refineries for Cuba.

            I, personally, know of companies who have gotten into trouble when their equipment, somehow, found it's way to a restricted country (Cuba, Sudan, Syria, Iran, etc). The US treasury department publishes a list. [doc.gov] Admittedly, this is only the voluntary actions but I am certain there are involuntary actions as well (ie: criminal cases). See the entry about Varian (Switzerland) for a specific example of what I am talking about.

            The point is: they ARE subject to US law via eBay owning them.
            • Re:how wrong you are (Score:4, Interesting)

              by teg (97890) on Monday August 20, 2007 @07:24PM (#20298477) Homepage

              You are so, so wrong. If a US company owns them, then they are subject to US law. This is to prevent US based companies from just setting up a shell and providing services to, say....Cuba or any other restricted country. There are countless examples of subsidiaries getting in trouble for things that are illegal in the US -- but not where their offices are.

              Or the other way round... In Norway, denying services due to e.g. nationality is illegal. If a US owned company operating in Norway does not serve Cuban customers, they could face discrimination charges. As they should, US law should not apply here.

        • by E++99 (880734) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:40PM (#20294815) Homepage

          Given that this baby [wiretaping law] was steamrolled through the Congress two weeks ago, the outage seems coincidental.

          Consider that Skype could not tell the users of the real reason even if they wanted to: the law mandates that the forced cooperation be kept in secret.

          Yes, the US government ordered Skype (a UK company, btw) to shut down for two days and blame it on Microsoft, and they complied. Hint: The aluminum foil goes on your head, not crammed forcibly into your ear.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by stephanruby (542433)

            Yes, the US government ordered Skype (a UK company, btw)...
            I realize that geography is not a strong point for Americans, but Luxembourg, Skype's real HQ, isn't part of the UK -- it never was.
      • Re:Yeah........ (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dc29A (636871) * on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:09PM (#20294437)

        Care to elaborate, Hercule Poirot?
        Some information here [zdnet.com] and here [skype.com].

        Skype network was overloaded by the zillions of Windows PCs rebooting after the patch installations.
    • It was the network pixies. They were on strike.

       
    • Re:Yeah........ (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:08PM (#20294409)
      Something was different last week wrt Microsoft. I had six servers reboot that had autoupdates turned off. My desktop system running 2003R2 and my laptop running XP also rebooted w/o my permission. We have quite a few pissed-off customers because of the updates. It was an unusual situation.
      • Re:Yeah........ (Score:5, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617) on Monday August 20, 2007 @02:03PM (#20295053) Homepage
        It just goes to show that you DON'T have control over your machine when it's running Microsoft Windows and it's on the internet. We have seen problems that result from this level of consumer trust in Microsoft before. I just have to wonder how much more will consumers tolerate? Seems like plenty since most people thing that anything Microsoft does is normal.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think they just managed to hire twitter for their disaster analysis team, he can find a way to blame anything on microsoft.
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Actually the problem was all the Macs that were left online by themselves...
  • by wompa (656355) on Monday August 20, 2007 @12:56PM (#20294253)
    I am not a MS fanboy but it needs to be pointed out that Skype blamed a flaw in their self-healing algorithm that was highlighted by patch Tuesday. They took responsibility.
  • by gorbachev (512743) on Monday August 20, 2007 @12:57PM (#20294273) Homepage
    The minute I saw the headlines on some of the blogs about this, I KNEW it'd be on Slashdot with the same misleading headline.

    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.

    The issue has now been identified explicitly within Skype.


    That's what Skype says. Doesn't sound like they're blaming anyone but themselves.
  • I can imagine that an awful lot of people rebooted and logged back into the service crashing their servers. It seems to me that this type of thing should be built into surge capacity so that if the servers started getting hammered, they would just bounce the users that they could not handle while sending back a message saying the server was busy and to try again later. Other services do this. And it's not like patch Tuesday isn't well known.

    It sounds like bad planning on their part. A large scale power outa
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by E++99 (880734)
      RTFA. It's not bad planning. It's a bug in their networking software.
  • Grow up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Organic User (1103717) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:03PM (#20294353)
    It was just a few days ago the Open Source elders asked people to stop bashing Microsoft. Skype did not blame Microsoft for the outage. They admitted the fault was in their software. We are not children here or part of a cult. This type of child play is no appreciated here.
  • by stecoop (759508) * on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:05PM (#20294363) Journal
    It's realy convient when you have somone else to blame.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:08PM (#20294407)
    Skype blames global warming on Colonel Mustard. In the conservatory (greenhouse). With the pipe. Since Colonel Mustard callously smashed all the windows in the greenhouse, it released all sorts of greenhouse gases into the environment thus dooming all the gay, baby polar bears unless the polar bears cooled themselves off by running the AC units of their Hummers at full blast. Why does Colonel Mustard hate the environment?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by the_fat_kid (1094399)
      Next: Everyone flushing a toilet at the same time will cause the east coast to go with out water for a week.
    • by Fozzyuw (950608)

      ...unless the polar bears cooled themselves off by running the AC units of their Hummers at full blast.

      I just had to say, that really made me laugh. Maybe it was imagery of it all.

      Cheers,
      Fozzy

  • timezones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hey (83763) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:10PM (#20294443) Journal
    Does the reboot occur at, say, 2AM local time? If so then reboots would be spread out by the (at least) 24 timezones.
    • Yes, but the reboots would be clustered near the supernodes, because of the correlation between latency and time zone (nearby systems have lower latency to each other and are likely to be in the same time zone). So there would be a rolling overstress of their P2P architecture.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:11PM (#20294451) Homepage

    Note that nowhere in Skype's announcement does the word "Microsoft" appear.

    It's very striking how, when some major vulnerability appears, Microsoft's name doesn't appear prominently in news releases.

    It also reminds you that Redmond has the power to reboot most of the computers in the world remotely. What if, one day, they didn't come back up?

    • by crossmr (957846)
      I'd push the power button?
    • That's because this isn't a vulnerability. Furthermore, MS only has the power to reboot machines when explicitly granted that power. But the rest of your post makes sense. Oh, wait, that nonsense comprises the entirety of your post. Nevermind.
      • Yes, that's a power they explicitly grant to themselves by default, I'd imagine that 80% of Windows boxes are set to reboot automatically. After all, some would argue that's the way to ensure the patches get loaded.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      "What if, one day, they didn't come back up?"

      Well that's an easy one. We'd format them and install Linux instead, so it can't happen to our friends again.

      Of course, we'd put Windows right back on for our customers, since 2 hours sitting on your ass and getting paid for it is always good, and Windows virtually assures you'll get to do it again in the future, too.
    • It mentions Windows Update here: http://heartbeat.skype.com/ [skype.com]

      "The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users' computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update."
  • P2P dumbness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kludge (13653) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:15PM (#20294501)
    I think this demonstrates the goofiness of a p2p telephone system. If I use Skype, I depend upon my data flowing through other users' computers because I am too dumb to allow incoming VOIP connections to my computer.
    VOIP connections should be direct encrypted connections from my computer to the computer of the person whom I wish to contact. Period.

    • VOIP connections should be direct encrypted connections from my computer to the computer of the person whom I wish to contact. Period.

      Hello.... NAT, anyone?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by raju1kabir (251972)
        All the central server has to do is instruct each endpoint to UDP tickle each other, then they can talk directly through NAT.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RingDev (879105)
      <sarcasm> Sure, we can do that. Just before you make any calls we'll need you to lay copper directly from your location, to the location of the person you are trying to reach. </sarcasm>

      Hello, it's the freaking internet, you're call is going to get routed to hell and back. Encrypted or not, you're going to be bouncing from routers to ISPs, to backbones, and back down the other side, and depending on your flavor you may even have a 3rd party provider to talk to in the loop.

      -Rick
    • Re:P2P dumbness (Score:5, Informative)

      by fasuin (532942) <mellia.tiscalinet@it> on Monday August 20, 2007 @02:34PM (#20295423)
      That's exaclty what skype does. All voice (video/chat/file) flows are encrypted, and they go from you to your party. Only if both of you are behind a NAT or/and firewall, then skype routes the call through another node. If you want more infos, have a look at "Revealing Skype Traffic: when randomness plays with you" and references therein... http://www.sigcomm.org/ccr/drupal/?q=node/245 [sigcomm.org]
  • "On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption. The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users' computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update."

    This has been going on for years now. You will note that the outage occurred on *Thursday* August 16th. Microsoft's patching schedule is every Tuesday. Typically computers reboot on Wednesd
  • by AudioEfex (637163) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:25PM (#20294631)
    Gee, I hope no one tried to call 911 during the outage. That "enhanced" (insert guffaw, it's like calling a hamburger without the meat and just a bun "enhanced") 911 didn't do a tinkers damn worth of good for anyone who's service was out.

    This is why I won't even consider VoIP. Why in the world would I want to take risks like this? I live in a house my family has lived in for over 60 years, with the same old phone line and it's NEVER GONE DOWN IN SIXTY YEARS! A couple of times a month my Internet craps out, though, though usually for less than an hour. And sometimes the router needs to be reset, like many people find they have to do periodically. What happens if I need 911 during one of those times, and I can't get around it?

    "Internet phone", "digital phone" whatever they want to call it, anything but a REAL land-line from the local phone company is a substandard service by definition. They can throw whatever words out there to make it sound super-dooper, but it's a substandard service just like anyone who experienced this outage can tell you.

    AE
    • by David Jao (2759)

      I live in a house my family has lived in for over 60 years, with the same old phone line and it's NEVER GONE DOWN IN SIXTY YEARS!

      It's not as simple as you describe. For example, in the United States at least, a large number of landlines were unable to initiate any phone calls on September 11, 2001, whereas internet based services such as e-mail had no problems on that day.

      Even for people who need a landline for 911, VoIP is still a useful complement for a landline. You can use VoIP for calling overseas, and the landline for local calls. In fact, you don't even need to subscribe to a VoIP service -- any calls that you place overs

    • There are already stories that when Verizon installs FIOS, they conveniently remove the copper wire connection that has served you so faithfully for sixty years. If you ask them to leave it in place they are supposed to honor the request, but other stories suggest that if you aren't physically present when they install the service that request is apt to get overlooked.

      The ultrareliable telephone service the U. S. has known for about a century is going away. It just doesn't make much money for the carriers,
    • How do you know your phone service has never been out in 60 years? Do you monitor it? How many calls a day do you make? Are you home 24/7 and do you use the phone all the time, as in more than 10,000 minutes per month?

      Sure, you've never been affected by an outage of your phone service, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been out of service ever.

      Plus, you pay for it too. At $30-40/month per line, you expect minimal outages. When you are paying $30/year or even nothing, a two day outage, while annoying, isn't surprising, especially when operated on a public network. Your phone line is on a private, dedicated network. You simply can't compare the two when it comes to uptime.

      If all of Skype's customers paid $30-40/month, I'm much more confident that they wouldn't have had this outage.
      • by AudioEfex (637163)
        "How do you know your phone service has never been out in 60 years? Do you monitor it? How many calls a day do you make? Are you home 24/7 and do you use the phone all the time, as in more than 10,000 minutes per month?"

        Nice attempt at deflection of the topic, but the answer is very simple. No one who has lived in my house in 60 years has ever picked up the phone and it not worked.

        That is a different experience than those who use this service have.

        AE
    • Gee, I hope no one tried to call 911 during the outage.

      Do you know any Skype users who have neither a landline nor a cell phone? I don't.

      Do you know anyone who's called 911 with Skype? I don't.

      In fact, for most Skype users, 911 isn't even a valid number where they live.

  • by DrDitto (962751) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:28PM (#20294663)
    Reminds me of the late 90s where AOL's crashing mail servers ended up bringing down my universities server (and many other organizations) because of the surge of load when AOL came back online and started sending backlogged mail.
  • do we need any further proof that a OS monoculture sucks?
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:35PM (#20294751)
    Does anyone know what OS those Skype servers are running? If the OS is Linux, then I blame Skype administrators. If it is any flavour of Windows, then I blame Microsoft. Now, some of you might say I am biased.
  • This is proof that you should believe everything you read in the news. Especially on Slashdot, where the is NO bias towards anything, especially Microsoft. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
  • hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by el_coyotexdk (1045108) on Monday August 20, 2007 @01:41PM (#20294827)
    Arent people usually complaining that windows userd doesnt install the security patches? now people complain that they actually DO install them... WHEN OH WHEN is people satified?
  • Not MSs Fault (Score:2, Redundant)

    by ViceClown (39698) *
    I think this story is badly titled. My understanding is that the outage happened because of patch Tuesday but Skype isn't blaming Microsoft for it. In fact it helped reveal a flaw in their p2p healing networking stack. I'm as much a /. fanboy as the next guy but this title is inflammatory and misleading.

    More info: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070820-gian t-synchronized-reboot-windows-update-smokes-skype. html [arstechnica.com]
  • Read TFA (Score:3, Funny)

    by fatcat1111 (158945) on Monday August 20, 2007 @02:01PM (#20295027)
    Skype didn't blame Microsoft for the outage, they attributed it to a bug in their software. Did the subby even read TFA?
  • Skype further stressed that there was no malicious activity and user security was never in any danger.
    But since it was a result of a Microsoft patch isn't that a contradiction?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 20, 2007 @02:54PM (#20295657)
    I don't remember where/when this happened, so it might be an urban legend. But the story is that many years ago an earthquake rattled a California town. No major damage was done, but it killed all the phones in the town for several days.

    The earthquake had jostled thousands of telephones off hook. The central office switches survived the quake just fine, but crashed due to a bug that seems eerily like the one Skype just described. Basically the switch kept a list of phones that were off hook. The switch is responsible for playing "dial tone" to those phones, but the central office only had a certain number of units that could play dial tone and listen for dialing. So the first "n" phones off hook got dial tone; the rest were put into a FIFO list of phones waiting for dial-tone equipment.

    There were so many phones off hook due to the earthquake that the FIFO list overflowed, crashing the switch.

    When the switch rebooted, it had to figure out which phones needed dial-tone. So it had to examine each phone line in turn, putting the ones that were off hook into the queue for a dial tone...thus overflowing the list and crashing the switch again. And again. And again.

    After a while the telco folks figured out what was wrong, but then couldn't tell anyone about it...since the phones were down. They eventually had police and fire trucks driving all over town, stopping to hang up all the pay phones that were jostled off hook, and blaring over megaphones for people to hang up their phones. :)

    Eventually enough phones were hung up so the switch could reboot without crashing - end of crisis.

    Good times.
  • Serves Skype right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SurturZ (54334) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @12:17AM (#20300689) Homepage Journal
    Serves Skype right for making their program a systray app that starts when Windows does :-)

    Sorry. I have a rabid hatred of TSRs. Particularly those that don't show up in the Startup folder.

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