Skype Begins Using Linux Boxes For Its VoIP Services

IT Management

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With Skype now being owned by Microsoft, the company has the advantage of being able to completely overhaul their infrastructure for the betterment of their own and its users' security. The change, replacing its P2P "supernodes" with Microsoft-hosted Linux boxes, would have cost Skype a pretty penny to implement on their own.

Ars Technica got the scoop from Immunity Security's Kostya Kortchinsky who said Microsoft replaced the nodes about two months ago. The old system would use self-described supernodes that consisted of users with enough bandwidth and processing power to transfer data and keep Skype's VoIP service running.

The new system, however, does away with this system according to Kortchinsky. The new system contains only about 10,000 supernodes hosted by Microsoft on Linux boxes. That's a big drop compared to the old system which had about 48,000 supernodes.

The drop doesn't mean that the new Linux boxes are worse off than the old system. It's actually better with the new boxes running grsecurity which makes them more impervious to attack. The new boxes also are able to host more with less resources. Kortchinsky told Ars Technica that the old system could only handle about 800 end users per supernode. The new Linux boxes can handle up to 4,100 users as of now, but that could be theoretically upgraded to 100,000 users.

Microsoft provided a statement to Ars Technica that confirms the use of the Linux boxes, but says that the P2P nature of Skype's VoIP service is still intact:

As part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the Skype user experience, we developed supernodes which can be located on dedicated servers within secure datacentres. This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another (calls do not pass through supernodes). We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community.

All of this is just another argument that Linux really is into everything these days. Linux is really the most secure OS in the world so using it to run servers for Skype is a fantastic decision and one that Microsoft should be lauded for. It does seem kind of weird, however, for Microsoft to be embracing open source technology like this when they themselves are only starting to join the open source bandwagon. I guess anything can happen in a world where Microsoft is in the list of top 20 Linux contributors.

Do you think Microsoft made the right move in moving the Skype VoIP infrastructure to Linux? Or do you think it should have stuck with a more traditional P2P model? Let us know in the comments.