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Distributed Computing

Skype
Centralized server beat work for IM services

Background
The Internet has revolutionized the way people communicate with a host of applications
providing voice, messaging, file transfers and video services . Voice over internet Protocol (VOIP)
applications have become very popular and operate by sending information via IP packets which
are then reassembled. Major players in the early days of the Internet include MSN, Yahoo, and
Skype. Skype emerged as the leading provider with is sucess due to the underlying technology it
developed. (ref) asserts that Skype was the first VOIP application based on Peer to peer (P2P)
technology and three factors where primarily responsible for Skype’s growing popularity:
 It deliver better voice quality
 It worked seamlessly over behind NATs (Network Address Translation) and firewalls
 Extremely easy to install and use as users can operate without manual user configuration
At the time the common architectue was the client server design with login and routing of calls ,
messages, and directory search all handled by central servers.
Since all communications had to pass through them this desgin suffered from high latency which
translated into poorer quality of service. Scalability with this design was also an issue with the
cost of maintenance and data storage increasing rapidly thus leaving fewer resources avaliable
per user.

Skype‘s usage of P2P architecture and stacked up well against centralised servers solving issues
like poor call quality and

Skype’s unique hybrid model ignited a trend in VOIP implementation with many
In recent times a many hybrid applications have emerged and the widespread growth of mobile
applications in the instant messaging and VOIP market have disrupted Skype’s position as the
market lead. These fast growing platforms include Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Viber.
Skype was originally designed for desktop environment wherein resources for utilizing extra
features are abundant. Skype now has to contend and compete with lightweight mobile
application that can run efficiently on mobile devices with less computing power. The mobile
version of skype is more processor demanding compare to other smartphone IM applications and
has a bulky feel to it. Find reference
The following table compares the technology and features provided by some popular instant
messengers:
Original Implementation

The original implementation of Skype’s network was an overlay Peer to peer network that
consisted of Skype client, Super nodes and an Login/Authentication server. Skype Clients where
end user applications installed on computers and provided the interface through which end users
could initiate calls, send messages or transfer files. A client could be selected to become a super
node and there was no means to prevent this.
When a client became a Super node it served as a specialized node that provided user directory
information, forwarded messages, routed calls and essentially allowed clients to find each other.
After a client is found communication is then directly made between the skype clients and not
through the supernode
Certain criteria had to be met in order for a skype client to become a supernode and client
computers that had underutilized computing resources, access to high bandwidth serivce and
connected via a public IP address were selected. Clients residing behind firewall and NAT devices
were not selected.
All validation of usernames, passwords and account details (Billing, ) was carried out in the
Authentication Server which doesnt serve as a supernode. When a client tried to login a packet
was first sent to a super node soliciting the address for the login server. After a successful login
the client no longer needed the server to establish connection to another client but exclusively
did this via the super nodes. End to end encryption is established using both TLS (transport-level
security) and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).

This design proved to be able to scale quickly to large numbers of users with minimal
expenses incurred with regards to maintaining dedicated servers. The end users basically
provided all the computing and networking resources needed. It was also able to withstand high
volumes of traffic as there was an absence of a single point of failure. Furthermore this design
ensured faster connections as only login requests were made to central servers with Supernodes
brokering the communication between clients thus routing calls efficiently and reducing latency.
The super node architecture had the ability to self-heal by promoting promising clients to super
nodes as the need arose thus making it reslient. Clients kept and regularly refreshed a list called
a host cache consisting of super node IP addresses and port pairs and used this to quickly find a
node. These advantages were key factors that allowed Skype to quickly lead the competition in
the VOIP sector .

Diagram

Modification to the Implementation


A number of failures and a particular widespread outage in December 2010 forced a rethink of
skype’s network implementation. Decribe cause of outage
The new implemention features a large number of super nodes residing dedicated servers within
secure datacentres. provide routing,
and no longer promotes Skype clients to Super nodes.
Skype decribes their revised network as a 3G P2p Communications

Analysis and Conclusion


Skype was able to overcome challenges in bandwidth, and scalability by implementing Peer to
peer VOIP communications in their network.
The original design served skype well but it had a major flaw; it was heavily reliant on end user
behavior as the network distributed its core function s over clients’ computers. This flaw became
glaring during the outage in December 2010 with a large number of crashes occurring in client
systems, bringing the whole network to a halt.
The need to attract big business and provide assurances that Skype could be reliably use as core
communication tools. careful about relying on consumer-grade services for vital business needs
Added complexity

The model drastically reduced the cost of running dedicated servers to support the network and
also increased the speed of delivery.
It depended on user behavoiur which can be unpredicatable.
search does not reach all nodes in the network.

There design was able to scale easily (see skype page)