Friday, August 17, 2007

All Peer-to-Peer Models Are NOT Created Equal -- Skype's Outage Does Not Impugn All Peer-to-Peer Models

Guest blogger, Aron Rosenberg, Founder & CTO of SightSpeed, responds to Om Malik's critical and provocative question that literally is around the blogosphere and media world-wide -- i.e., "Does Skype’s outage indicate a fatal flaw in using Peer-to-Peer?"

Bottom line -- according to Aron (his full analysis/opinion is below), all Peer-to-Peer models are not created equal. Skype's Peer-to-Peer model suffers from flaws not present in other Peer-to-Peer models (so it is Skype-specific vulnerabilities that are exposed by its ongoing outage, rather than vulnerabilities to Peer-to-Peer in general).

How is Skype different from other Peer-to-Peer models?

According to Aron, like its predecessor Kazaa, Skype uses a different type of Peer-To-Peer network than most companies. Skype uses a system called SuperNodes. A SuperNode Peer-to-Peer system is one in which you rely on your customers rather than your own servers to handle the majority of your traffic. SuperNodes are just normal computers which get promoted by the Skype software to serve as the traffic cops for their entire network. In theory this is a good idea, but the problem happens if your network starts to destabilize. Skype, as a company, has no physical or programmatic control over the most vital piece of its product. Skype instead is at the mercy of and vulnerable to the people who unknowingly run the SuperNodes.

This of course exposes vulnerabilities to any business based on such a system -- systems that, in effect, are not within the company's control.

According to Aron, another flaw with SuperNode models concerns system recovery after a crash. Because Skype lost its SuperNodes in the initial crash, its network can only recover as fast as new SuperNodes can be identified.

Other companies such as SightSpeed that use Peer-to-Peer do not suffer from these flaws that proved to be fatal in this case, since these companies manage and handle all the core functionality themselves. Standards based telephony protocols such as SIP (which SightSpeed uses) were designed from the outset to be fault tolerant.

Thanks Aron -- appreciate your thoughts on this important topic.

(And, if you would like to check out SightSpeed as an alternative, SightSpeed now has a special offer for Skype users and others to check out its full premium services, SightSpeed PRO, FREE for 30 days -- SightSpeed's regular service is always free.)

Skype Alternatives -- SightSpeed (Special Offer for Skype Users)

Andy Abramson points out that Skype is still apparently "down" -- out of service for many. This has been top news around the world, since so many are dependent upon IP communications services. And, TechCrunch points out that about $1 billion has been knocked off eBay's market cap as a result.

All of you, of course, are welcome to SightSpeed -- we now have a new special offer live on our site -- 30 days FREE of our premium SightSpeed PRO service (our regular consumer service is always free) -- so, check out what is widely regarded to be the best in class and most comprehensive IP communications services.