Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Skype -- Its Major Service Outages Are Inevitable Time & Time Again -- Here's Why

I use Skype. You likely do too. It's a great voice and video chat service.

But, can you depend on it as a business user? I mean, really depend on it? No, you must have back up plans always ... always.

Last week, as many of you know, Skype suffered a massive service interruption -- for 24 hours beginning on December 22. Essentially, the entire service was down. In a bold move that I fully applaud for its complete transparency and accountability, Skype's CIO, Lars Rabbe, wrote a lengthy blog discussing why and how this happened -- here is the link. (As an aside, this is precisely how companies should treat their customers during major periods of service disruption -- i.e., full transparency and accountability. Major brownie points for Skype on this one.)

Obviously, Skype restored its service, but 24 hours is a long long time if Skype is your primary mode of communication. And, is this an isolated event? Can Skype now institute fail-safes to prevent a massive outage yet again? Is that even possible?

From what I understand from one of the foremost experts on these matters -- former SightSpeed CTO (and now Logitech executive) Aron Rosenberg -- the answer is absolutely not. The problem is Skype's particular flavor or P2P upon which its entire systems sits -- i.e., its supernode architecture. By its inherent nature, Skype's form of P2P apparently is always vulnerable to cascading system failure -- and that exposes all of us users to service interruption. This same risk is not inherent in all P2P systems -- again, it is inherent in Skype's particular implementation of P2P. I urge you to read this former guest post by Aron Rosenberg on this subject -- explaining with great precision why this is the case.

This means that all Skype users -- including me -- should have back up plans when this happens again. Unless Aron is wrong -- which I highly doubt -- this eventuality is an inevitability time and time and time again ...

Again, I like Skype and I greatly respect the company. I'm just pointing out something that all Skype users should know ... and something that is not well understood.

It's That Time of Year Again -- No, Not the Holidays -- CES!

Hard to believe that 2010 is nearly a distant memory. And, that can mean only one thing -- the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is nearly here. Ahh, yes, nothing like starting the New Year with your favorite hundreds of thousands friends as you stroll along the Las Vegas Strip for miles ... and miles ... and miles ("is that hotel getting any closer?").

We at Sorenson Media will be at the show in full force -- taking meetings and soaking it all in. There was a time not long ago when CES was not high on our priority list. But, things have changed a lot -- my meeting schedule for three full days is already nearly full. And, among other things, we have very significant consumer-focused stories that we are in a unique position to tell -- i.e., and among others: (1) enabling consumer-focused services (a la Netflix and others) to deliver the highest quality video to consumers on demand or for streaming; and (2) enabling consumer electronics and mobile eco-system companies to offer their customers a seamless video storage and sharing solution (read more about what I have in mind here by clicking this link to my earlier post on the subject).

In any event, meet me in Las Vegas and let's soak up the local culture together. Please send your meeting requests to my attention at

And, don't forget to take your flu shot before you go!