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Microsoft Using Linux To Optimize Skype Traffic 396

Posted by samzenpus
from the strange-bedfellows dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A security researcher believes that Microsoft has overhauled Skype, with thousands of Linux boxes serving as the 'supernodes' that route calls between users of the voice-over-IP service. Kostya Kortchinsky of Immunity Security 'discovered the Linux supernodes using a Skype probing technique he and colleague Fabrice Desclaux first demonstrated in 2006,' according to Ars Technica. The drastic infrastructure change doesn't affect the peer-to-peer nature of the calls between Skype users."
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Microsoft Using Linux To Optimize Skype Traffic

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  • by CriticalAnalysis (2631225) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:51PM (#39884693)
    Skype creators are same that designed Kazaa. This is how the P2P structure of Skype works and is widely known. What is the point of this story?
    • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) * on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:54PM (#39884737)

      To gloat over the irony of Microsoft using cheap UNIX boxes for P2P infrastructure. Even in 2012, Microsoft is still the bogeyman here.

      • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:00PM (#39884801)
        Well, very appropriate considering Microsoft's position on Linux and Free Software was that they were a "cancer" (their words, not mine). So maybe giving them a ribbing at this news isn't unjustified.
        • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:12PM (#39884951)
          Words uttered in 2001. Words which more than anything exhibit Ballmer's (mis)understanding of how GPL and other open source licenses work, and also how cancer in general works.
          Like the AC said, even in 2012 MS is still the bogeyman.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Ballmer made the comment and he is the current CEO of Microsoft. He never recanted what he said and MS has been on a continuous campaign of attacking Linux ever since. Furthermore, "Overly Critical Guy" made the bogeyman comment, not an AC. Hmm...

          • Like the AC said, even in 2012 MS is still the bogeyman.

            I think Apple owns that honor now.

          • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @11:32PM (#39886375)
            Ballmer understood Linux and Free Software - if he didn't then he was negligent as CEO, and I actually give him more credit than others. Ballmer also understood that with the right tech support networks (eg. pre-installation) that Linux was a huge competitive threat to Windows. It is only recently that Microsoft has backed off on such comments, they weren't isolated comments made in 2001, they were made consistently and has part of an orchestrated campaign over many years (please, check out the notorious "Halloween Documents" for some perspective on Microsoft's modus operandi - you may never of heard of them, but anyone who is anything but a n00b is well aware of these and Microsoft's other dirty tricks).
          • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NospAm.hotmail.com> on Friday May 04, 2012 @02:53AM (#39887287) Journal

            Words uttered in 2001. Words which more than anything exhibit Ballmer's (mis)understanding of how GPL and other open source licenses work

            Words uttered in 2007:

            Microsoft claims that free software like Linux, which runs a big chunk of corporate America, violates 235 of its patents. It wants royalties from distributors and users.

            http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033867/ [cnn.com]

            Words uttered in 2009:

            Microsoft has brought a lawsuit against car navigation system manufacturer TomTom. The products in question incorporate Linux, and at least one of the seven patents involved concerns a Linux kernel implementation rather than TomTom's own software. Is this Microsoft's first direct salvo against Linux?
            Is this a serious suit, or an effort to stir up fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Linux at a critical time, when government and industry is taking up Open Source in a big way?

            http://www.datamation.com/osrc/article.php/3807801/Bruce-Perens-Analyzing-Microsofts-Linux-Lawsuit.htm [datamation.com]

            Microsoft are just getting media sly. They haven't really changed otherwise.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Define cheap? Did Microsoft save money by not buying Windows licenses from themselves? Price was not obviously the reason for this decision.

        Idiot.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

        To gloat over the irony of Microsoft using cheap UNIX boxes for P2P infrastructure

        There's no reason to gloat - I mean, if Microsoft is so full of themselves, if that Ballmer guy is still insisting that "Linux is a cancer", then fine, let Microsoft use boxen running their own OS to power Skype.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because they switched from client supernodes to dedicated supernodes. Those of us interested in p2p architectures are interested. Go back to drooling on yourself.

      • They didn't switch, they merely improved the network by providing extra capability to it. Skype has been growing fast lately and they want to ensure its stability. It is still P2P, they just house dedicated nodes to support it.
        • by chill (34294)

          The article claims that regular users can no longer be promoted to supernodes. I would call that a switch.

          • by icebike (68054) *

            The article claims that regular users can no longer be promoted to supernodes. I would call that a switch.

            Regular users haven't been promoted to supernodes for a long time. You needed an inward route thru your firewall (or a direct connection) for this to work. The sale to Microsoft left a bad enough taste in many people's mouth that they just dropped their inward routes and thereby eliminated any possibility of them being a supernode.

            But even prior to the sale, (under Ebay) skype had started paring back client side supernodes, because of security concerns. I don't actually think they were using end-user mach

  • by benedictaddis (1472927) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:52PM (#39884717)
    These intermediary nodes are only needed because we've broken the end-to-end principle - the idea that any Internet endpoint can talk to any other. We need to wean ourselves off NAT and start to demand native IPv6.
    • by zlives (2009072)

      learn to SBC...

    • Obviously, you didn't RTFA, but that's the norm these days. The traffic doesn't go through the supernodes, all call traffic is p2p. The supernodes are directory servers so that clients can locate other clients.

  • Why So Serious? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:55PM (#39884755)

    I've never understood why people get all shocked when someone uses a competitor's product when theirs can do the job too. Well, Linux is a better platform for embedded applications, single-purpose servers, etc. It is much more efficient because there's no GUI to drive and only the bare minimum needs to be loaded in memory. Even the kernel can be stripped down to only essential modules, and it can be tweaked for realtime applications.

    Windows servers aren't designed for that. They're designed to be low maintenance multi-purpose servers which are easily configurable. Most businesses who setup windows servers aren't using them in areas where high performance is needed. They are for satellite offices, small workgroups, etc., where the server has a variety of roles. The only high performance servers I routinely see windows deployed on routinely are domain controllers and mail servers (specifically Exchange servers).

    It's a sound business move.

    • Re:Why So Serious? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:02PM (#39884823) Journal

      I've never understood why people get all shocked when someone uses a competitor's product when theirs can do the job too. Well, Linux is a better platform for embedded applications, single-purpose servers, etc. It is much more efficient because there's no GUI to drive and only the bare minimum needs to be loaded in memory. Even the kernel can be stripped down to only essential modules, and it can be tweaked for realtime applications.

      Windows servers aren't designed for that.

      Eat your own dog food.
      If Windows Server isn't secure enough or powerful enough to do the job, maybe Microsoft should revisit their design choices.

      • If Windows Server isn't secure enough or powerful enough to do the job, maybe Microsoft should revisit their design choices.

        So if you're a bicycle manufacturer, you should give up and start designing cars? Microsoft's design choices have been about making a server that's easy to configure, does not require specific knowledge of the OS' inner-workings, and is intended as a "one size fits all" solution. It's like comparing a semitruck to a freight train -- yes, they both often haul the same materials but they are hardly interchangeable.

      • by RulerOf (975607)

        Eat your own dog food.

        Step back a minute. Just because Microsoft owns Skype does NOT mean that they think it's a great business idea to come in and tell them HOW they should accomplish something. Did it ever occur to you that they might have said, "We want Skype to be more reliable, so here's some money, dear Skype division. Now get it done."?

      • by Guppy06 (410832)

        If Windows Server isn't secure enough or powerful enough to do the job, maybe Microsoft should revisit their design choices.

        They are. Server 2012 won't be RTM until early fall at the earliest, and they apparently needed something now.

      • Or Microsoft isn't forcing Skype to do things their way and is letting the Skype team do what they've been doing well up to this point. I imagine this change has been years in the making. No reason to force them to change paths due to politics.

        Good on Microsoft.

    • Re:Why So Serious? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aintnostranger (1811098) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:06PM (#39884875)

      I've never understood why people get all shocked when someone uses a competitor's product

      Maybe in this case people get shocked not because it's just a competing product but one that was deemed a "cancer" by MS itself? It's one thing to use a competitor product, it's another to use something you denounce as immoral.

    • by crutchy (1949900)
      microsoft servers are designed to keep the IT industry employed
    • by slew (2918)

      Maybe Microsoft has learned something over time. When Microsoft first bought hotmail, all the front end servers were running on FreeBSD, and the backend servers were running Solaris. The first thing they tried to do was convert everything to Win2K to show the world it could be done. Didn't start out so great and they learned that somethings were best left alone (even though they eventually pushed them all through to show that it could be done**). Now they have another chance with another high-value web p

  • My calling card is only 4 cents per minute. I've been curious about skype but never saw any reason to switch?

    • Well, if the person you're calling also has Skype installed the call is free. Calls to landlines (from the U.S. anyway) are usually between 2 cents and 3 cents per minute.
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      My Skype subscription is only 7GBP a month for unlimited calls. I've been curious about calling cards but never saw any reason to switch?

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Calling cards are what people used before unlimited calls on cellphones became popular in the 2000s. MY cell costs 18 cents/minute so I use the 4cent/minute card instead.

  • Must be to avoid license fees, zing!
  • Microsoft is one of the biggest Linux contributors http://www.infoworld.com/d/open-source-software/microsoft-counted-key-linux-contributor-now-anyway-190104 [infoworld.com]. In my view they have absolutely all the right to use it, if it fits their solution.
    • Well.. not be a smartass, but everyone has the right to use it. That's the point.

    • GPL software is for everyone. The reason people are surprised when Microsoft uses GNU/Linux is that they spent years badmouthing the OS -- they said it was only suitable for hobbyists and students, they said it was cancer, they told people that it violated untold numbers of patents, etc.
  • ...extend, extinguish
  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:06PM (#39884865) Journal

    They likely couldn't afford the cost of the server licenses.

    • by crutchy (1949900)
      i wonder if there are any data centers in the world (not owned by microsoft to some extent) that run any version of windows
      • by don.g (6394)

        Well you can rent Windows servers from Rackspace...

        Also I hear myspace runs (ran? is it dead yet?) on Windows.

        • by crutchy (1949900)

          you can rent Windows servers from Rackspace

          that doesn't mean they have a data center full of them

  • by ZackSchil (560462) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:10PM (#39884931)

    Good to hear that Skype will be a bit less fly-by-night and will have better call performance. But for two years now, the interface has been getting progressively worse and Skype credits have been exchanging for fewer and fewer minutes. The current version has no compact buddy list, requires a subscription for multiparty video, has giant ads on a useless "home" screen, and wants me to issue facebook updates of some shit. I have never uninstalled anything so fast in my life.

    Balance the traffic all you want, Microsoft. Skype is a sinking ship if you don't make it lighter, prettier, and cheaper.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      requires a subscription for multiparty video

      Google Hangouts. Generally provide equal or higher video resolution and audio quality and is free.

      Seriously folks, Skype sucks. It has sucked for a long time. There are better solutions available. And if you care, the last time I compared prices, Google's offerings were cheaper on all but one country I checked. Not trying to be a Google cheerleadering, but seriously, you can easily do better than skype.

      Hell, my brother is deployed overseas in a country I'm not supposed to name. We tried Google Hangouts for

    • by ghostdoc (1235612)

      I use Skype messaging all the time, rarely use it to make calls, and I've noticed performance is getting terrible these days too.
      Messages frequently don't arrive until the next time the recipient logs on.

      Guess it's time to move on... I haven't tried Google hangouts for this yet, so that might be worth a go

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:10PM (#39884937)

    ... to anyone who doesn't remember Microsoft's acquisition of BSD-based Hotmail.

    They're not going to migrate to completely in-house systems overnight.

  • by dan_barrett (259964) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:18PM (#39885043)

    Why is this interesting / amusing ?
    Technically using Linux or some other unix as a supernode is fine, probably a better solution than Windows server - but this is Microsoft, the dominant operating system provider; very much the competitor to Linux. they *could* use a competitor's solution but traditionally Microsoft reinvents the wheel rather than do this (see Silverlight, XPS, .NET, Office Open document format, Sync framework for examples)

    Choosing Linux rather than their own OS product for this task seems like bad PR especailly after publicly criticising Linux as an insecure, slow, potentially IP-violating OS platform.
    You may recall they were "caught" using FreeBSD for hotmail after acquiring that service - and eventually migrated it to Windows.

    I'm guessing there will soon be a "WinMin" or Windows server core based platform that hosts this instead of Linux.

  • by Diamonddavej (851495) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:47PM (#39885323)

    And it's therefore ironic that the development of Skype on Linux has been abandoned, it's been stuck at version 2.2 Beta for over a year now.

  • by caywen (942955) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @10:44PM (#39886133)

    Dear Recently Acquired Skype Division:

    Please abandon your entire Linux infrastructure, like, right after you read this. I know the market is hypercompetitive, but we really need you to spend 2 years rebuilding everything from scratch on Windows Server, because if word got out that one of our divisions is using Linux, the slashdot community will go ape shit. In the meanwhile, you'll still be accountable to shareholders for revenue, so figure out how to make money after your service goes down for 2 years. Maybe you can sell chocolate bars or have a bake sale or something.

    Yours,
    Steve Ballmer

"Card readers? We don't need no stinking card readers." -- Peter da Silva (at the National Academy of Sciencies, 1965, in a particularly vivid fantasy)

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