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Unlimited Bandwidth is Disrupting Infrastructure Models

Over the last ten years we have heard a lot about edge-based services. These were needed to enable the operation of applications at the edge of the network, as the lack of available bandwidth capacity made it difficult to do so over the core network.

However, with the prospect of limitless bandwidth the design of the network is changing again.

I discussed this recently with Steve Alexander, Senior VP and Chief Technology Officer for Ciena.

This new design will evolve around smart infrastructure and smart devices. These devices (think, for example, smartphones) are becoming platforms from which users can launch their own applications. With increased storage capacity at the user end we will see smart devices that allow customers to have at their fingertips the applications that they want and use most.

Intelligent networks can predict and pre-empt what users want and provide updates to the user platform (TV, PC, tablet, smartphone, game computer, smart meter, home gateway) whenever the smart infrastructure has a (low-cost) capability for it.

This means that the user experience is paramount. In this way content such as movies and games can be made available at the user’s finger tips, with no delays.

Also, in the content market the 80/20 rule applies—80% of content will come from 20% of the providers. These very large content providers (Google, Hulu, YouTube, eBay, Amazon, etc) will also use this smart high-capacity infrastructure to operate a distributed content system with lots of replication across the world, again all aimed at providing that optimum user-experience.

There will still be a reasonable amount of ‘big iron’ data centres, but the majority of these sites will be distributed, based on issues like cheap (green) energy, low real estate costs, availability of workforce, etc. Cloud computing will be the key distribution mechanism to manage these applications.

These networks—mainly Ethernet-based—are less complex to build and can be much simpler, and therefore cheaper, to operate and maintain.

The centre of this universe is the internet and occupying that all-important place on the internet is what the future content, services and application business model is all about. We only have to look at companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon to see how they have been able to occupy their space in a comparatively short period of time, and how dominant they have become. There is hardly any room for second positions.

The winners will be those who explore what the internet can do, as opposed to those who are making a case for things that the internet is not allowed to do. In contrast with the abovementioned internet companies, look at the Hollywood studios case against the Australian ISP iiNet; the rearguard battles of the newspaper, book and music industries; the battle of the American broadcasters trying to stop ISPs and telcos distributing their broadcast content via tablet computers; and the argument of some Australian retailers that the government should tax retail over the internet.

Another infrastructure shift is the morphing of the various networks into one; fixed, mobile, public and private. Increasingly this will be one big interconnected, open infrastructure with well-designed redundancy, security and efficiency. The final control of what happens on top of that infrastructure will be in the hands of the customers, including the levels of privacy they want to apply to their activities over the network.

With unlimited bandwidth, as mentioned above, more intelligence will be available at the user end.

The future telcos of this environment will provide the management and control facilities in its various gradations that allow the users to operate the applications in the way they want. We call this value-added infrastructure services and these include cloud computing, content hosting, billing, security, backups and other online IT services.

The ubiquitous availability of bandwidth will not only transform the content industry (digital economy) beyond recognition—it will turn the entire infrastructure upside down. Proprietary-based infrastructure islands will eventually lose out to the emerging open technology neutral designs.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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