Skype, The Bandwidth Hog

28 Comments

Paul Kedrosky just experienced the worst of Skype. His computer became like a super-super node and basically overwhelmed his 100 megabit per second connection to the Internet. It has been a deep dark secret in the Skype world that how super fast hosts in the West are being used as supernodes for the benefit of others who are geeky enough to prevent this from happening.

As more and more Skype-enabled phones go online, how bad of a problem this “pipe hijack” will become? Aswath and Andy were talking about this only a week ago. Computerworld has some thoughts on this.

Skype’s recent versions have already been derided for being CPU hogs, not just for Mac owners, but for Windows PC users who complained that their machines were running hot, and Skype was consuming a lot of cycles. Its been a known fact to readers here of the various issues that go along with Skype.

28 Comments

StanTheMan

…So, any news regarding this issue?
How can I prevent being misused as a host for Skype’s data transfer? Is using a different programm the only solution? There must be a way to block the abuse -> Kazaa also doesn’t function on some networks, so there must be a way to block it.
I am sure there are better programms, but most contacts in my contact lists are hardly technical enough to use skype, let alone replace it by another programm.

ohmer

ive heard news that skype eat a lot of bandwidth though is there any concrete comparison between free voip p2p that can conclude or exaclty compare every product. so that user will now what is the realyy score for skype.

Gert123456

To the guy who wrote the above post titled “SOLUTION TO SKYPE THE BANDWIDTH HOG”. What a pathetic attempt at advertising your product.

dennis

SOLUTION TO SKYPE THE BANDWIDTH HOG

There is a much better solution alternative to Skype and its called Damaka (www.damaka.com). They advertise that they can do all that Skype can do and even more like H.264 video and desktop sharing strictly peer to peer WITHOUT any servers in the middle and without any SUPERNODES in the middle.

It seems like it can do IM, email, audio calls, audio conference, H.263 and H.264 video, video conference, multiple lines, music on hold, voice mail, file sharing and now DESKTOP SHARING all end to end encrypted using TLS and sRTP and strictly using peer to peer via SIP.

Check it out: http://www.damaka.com

Chris

All users in my office use skype and behind NAT, but is kind of annoying to see so many https connection to nodes … sometimes I just killed the connection to the nodes… I just wondering if the connections are consuming bandwith or not…

chris holland

moo: you don’t have to have a single host routing all the traffic. You can spread multiple hosts throughout the planet, and , as part of the SIP handshaking process, have calls routed through whichever host will result in less hops.

Skype’s approach to relaying traffic isn’t P2P either. In fact, the very concept of “relaying traffic” is incompatible with the concept of Peer to Peer. Relaying traffic is just a reality we have to deal with for some rare really really messed-up networks and their users, where STUN has failed.

Now, you can do that the sleazy way, and hijack someone’s computer to relay the traffic. Or you can put your own servers in strategic locations throughout the planet to relay traffic for your users. Skype adopted the former approach. Gizmo adopted the latter approach.

“Supernodes” are just “servers”, the same way certain SIP proxies may relay RTP traffic for you. It’s the exact same thing. Except that Skype’s approach hijacks some poor sap’s computer to turn her/him into a “Supernode”.

Mull

Dave, trust me, the NSA doesn’t need to host the supernodes, they do quite well getting into any conversation they like. VoIP, PSTN, whatever. They have done this for quite a while.

chris holland

Greg Parker: yeah you’ll find that many providers that use SIP still strive to keep their members within their own ecosystems by giving them numbers, and then, selectively “peer” with other providers thru kludgy peering numbers.

This is all silly. But in the end, practice shows that if you use SIP for signaling, your members can be reached through SIP addresses. It may be simpler or harder to find out what that sip address is, but in the end there’s always a way.

for example my earthlink SIP account can be reached by my email address. sip:hollandct@earthlink.net or mailto:hollandct@earthlink.net . Same thing. Since earthlink does not yet have a Mac sip client, i’ve configured SJPhone, and it works like a charm. The same way i can use any POP/SMTP client i want with my earthlink e-mail address.

If i had my way, all phone numbers would be replaced by SIP addresses. Vendors would come-up with a consensus to extend the vCard specification to support SIP addresses, such as an “X-SIP” field. All handheld devices would be IP and SIP-ready, with a vCard-compatible importing facilities over IR, Bluetooth, or IP.

In fact, in an ideal world, i’d never exchange a “phone number” with someone. I’d just “beam” them, e-mail them, a vCard, write an easy-to-remember sip-address on a piece of paper.

in an ideal world, all Domain Name Registrars would offer free SIP forwarding, so it’s super easy for someone to register their own domain name, and use it for a personalized SIP address. All calls coming to my personalized SIP address could be routed to whoever my SIP-provider-du-jour is, for example, if you SIP me at sip:chris@chriswuzhere.com i would tell the domain registrar for chriswuzhere.com to route all SIP calls to sip:hollandct@earthlink.net .

There is no need for existing numbering scheme, or yet another numbering scheme, or another gold rush to some other centralized “directory”.

DNS is all we need.

Bohdanka Inkognito

I just have found out, that Skype blocks the port it uses for file transfer, simply no other program can use it…what a PIG! NO more skype for me. I have been using this program called Wavago and it seems to be pretty clean player.

Greg Parker

I have been following Skype for well over 2 years – since it’s very early days. Mainly due to a personal interest in seeing the price of communications go to zero or close enough. I am the inventor of Wavago. Wavago was launched in March of 2005. Wavago was designed from the ground up to be a single tool for communications, information and entertainment services.

On to the point, SuperNodes and proprietary protocols:
SuperNodes have long been known to be a part of Skype. After all, Skype’s heritage is Kazaa to Joltid to Skype, which all believe that P2P means using intermediaries for the delivery/relay of data/information and the use of those intermediaries at their will. Skype’s P2P idea/methodology may have come from the days of SETI – where any user anywhere in the world could install a screensaver that when engaged allowed SETI to use that computers resources for complex calculations for the benefit of advancing the human race. However, as we all know, this is not true Peer-to-Peer communications, and it appears that Skype/eBay are mainly interested in advancing themselves. Several players in the market do offer direct peering alternatives, including Wavago. But SuperNodes are consuming more than just bandwidth – they also consume computer resources (CPU and Memory) for other users’ communications. Each on there own is significant, and I have talked to many users that cannot understand why their computer is running so slowly with Skype running, and fine when it is not running – answer is a combination of the shear size of Skype (recently referred to as bloat-ware) running somewhere in the 25MB + memory range, it’s use of CPU, and the use of SuperNodes.
Proprietary Protocols: in my many years of experience, the question of using standards or not has presented itself many many times. I am a standards advocate, but just because a particular system conforms to a standard does not mean that they are interoperable for example. If we look at SIP, while the published protocol is a ‘standard’ the implementations may differ, and more to the point the ability for one SIP system to ‘converse’ with another is not guaranteed in any way. In fact, the real issue with communications across systems (providers) lies not only in the protocol but probably more importantly in the directory location services – where are you in this system in relation to who you wish to contact in another system, and how do the disparate systems relay that information? Now SIP has gone a long way in this direction, but in the end it relies on the ability and willingness of the individual system providers to conform and publish this information.

Wavago’s approach was quite simple – support the existing major protocols transparently (Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, MSN, Google and Skype), support SIP and only if and where required utilize a proprietary protocol. No use of SuperNodes, use direct peering technologies. Include communications, information and entertainment services in one application. Minimize footprint for computer and network resources. Make the contact the center, remove the complexity of multi-protocol communications, and make it easy to use.

http://www.Wavago.com

chris holland

what baffles me most is why people even bother with and use Skype?

It’s a closed protocol. It’s AOL Mail circa 1989.

I’ll second Rick’s remark, Gizmo Project ( http://www.gizmoproject.com/ ) or any other SIP-based alternative is a far better way.

One of the reasons SIP works very well 99.99% of the time for everyone, is because all SIP clients make good use of the STUN protocol which works very well around most NAT issues. I’ve done SIP calls behind two layers to NAT without a glitch, a 192.168. network plugged to a 10.0.0 network plugged to my DSL pipe.

And in the very rare cases where it’s not possible for two SIP peers to connect, the handshaking process in the SIP protocol provides a framework for the data (RTP) traffic to get relayed by a host between the two peers.

I believe Gizmo (sipphone.com) has set-up a bunch of dedicated hosts throughout the planet to handle traffic relay between SIP peers who can’t connect to each other.

None of that silly monkey supernode bullcrap.

rick

One other thing worth mention. I’ve had no problem with Gizmo and NAT/firewalls. I believe this is a major reason Skype began sharing computers. Now, it’s not an issue, so Skype needs to reevaluate their entire network.

DTMF works on Gizmo too. Skype doesn’t most of the time. Gizmo is SIP too.

Gizmo is just one example of a better service. More to come. Gizmo has PSTN calling, so it’s my favorite.

rick

moo, P2P means many different things. You’re probably correct in it’s purest form, but it’s not necessary. An example of a service using their own servers is Gizmo. Their call quality is excellent. Calls get connected much better than Skype. And they don’t abuse people’s computers.

Dave

So if I’m the NSA I create a super-super-node and grab all the conversations going through my network. Sounds like people are volunteering their phone calls, it sure saves a lot of trouble trying to tap them.

Penguin

moo, i think prioritizing traffic is something we will see more of, especially as more bandwidth heavy apps like video become commonplace. This ties in with Om’s earlier post on net neutrality http://gigaom.com/2006/01/06/att-verizon-bellsouth-google/

The more applications begin to hog bandwidth, the more SPs will seek to prioritize that traffic. The unfortunate side-effect of that is that the traffic that may be prioritized is the traffic the SP can directly make a profit from.

moo

If eBay puts all the load on their servers, then it wouldnt be P2P any more, would it? I am not sure how good the voice quality If every single Skype conversation around the world is to be processed and routed by a central server sitting in ebay. Too many hops.

SWoods

aaah… this is an old problem with makers of skype… i experienced a similar situation with Kazaa. My company’s entire network came crashing down.

A better alternative seems to be damaka (http://www.damaka.com). Read a lot of blogs on damaka – some good, some bad. I tested it a few months ago and it works just fine for me.

They do ‘direct peering’ – first time I am hearing this term… it just means they dont create super nodes like skype does. I found their call quality to be better than skype. They are SIP based and are secure end to end. They have a lot of cool features… but are missing some important ones like PSTN calling and file transfer.

check them out @ http://www.damaka.com

Rick

Why hasn’t Ebay put the load on their servers. This is so elementary. But Skype is the big thing. Remember, sharing is good. Well, Nick, I heard you didn’t share the pot of Ebay gold. Yes, sharing is really good. Is that still on their website. I haven’t been there lately and don’t think I’ll be back. :-)

Om Malik

well, this clearly has become a big issue and i am a tad surprised that no one talks about this stuff anymore. there is certain halo around skype right now.

i am wondering what happens when my comcast pipe becomes a super node, and what if it means me getting terminated from comcast broadband. this is getting a tad scary now.

moo

If apps like Skype are going to eat up all my bandwidth, then I’ll be happy if incumbent pipe owners start prioritizing the traffic.

rob

it all comes back to “if it seems to good to be true it usually is” – what kind of network problems could this create if Skype was REALLY big? is this something eBay is going to solve – at least for calls that are related to moving product on ebay.com – by creating their own supernodes? it seems that in all the free call fever that some people forgot a basic rule – you can’t get something for nothing…..someone is going to be paying the price!

aswath

An unselfish and “anti-social” way to handle this problem is to put the Skype client behind a “symmetric NAT”. The whole system may not scale as much as before, but you will be safe.

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