Skype blames "super nodes" for massive system failure

Internet telephony service leaves millions in the lurch

Stewart Mitchell
23 Dec 2010

VoIP provider Skype is still struggling to get its business back to normal after a service black-out caused disruption for millions of users around the world.

According to the company, the crash stemmed from a problem with the “super nodes” on its network and Skype alluded to software as the root cause of the failure.

“Skype isn’t like a conventional phone or IM network – instead, it relies on millions of individual connections between computers and phones to keep things up and running. Some of these computers are what we call ‘super nodes’ – they act a bit like phone directories for Skype,” the company said in a statement.

“Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of super nodes available, but today many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.”

Skype has yet to explain whether the fault was the result of a software upgrade glitch or an external attack on the super nodes.

During the night, the company said it had resolved the problem, but many users are still suffering from the fault and the company posted via Twitter that services may take some time to return to normal.

“Thanks for your continued patience while we get everyone back online,” the company said. “Sorry especially to those of you who are still waiting.”

The company said it was creating new super nodes as quickly as possible, but some features, such as group video calling, would take longer to repair than others.

According to Skype, the issue did not impact enterprise products such as Skype Connect and Skype Manager, but the outage renewed questions over the wisdom of relying on internet telephony alone.

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