Preparing for the future

Why the internet industry runs the risk of running out of bandwidth.

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Preparing for the future
By  Mashood Ahmad Published  October 24, 2010

Ten years ago, speculation on the future of the internet led to a bubble in the telecom industry as the world’s carriers overbuilt networks on the promise of a deluge of traffic that never seemed to materialise.

Or did it? Today, YouTube alone uses more bandwidth than the entire internet did in 2000. In fact, many of the promises of the internet from 2000 have now been realised or exceeded in today’s networks. Online banking, mobile video and a complete cultural shift toward online social interaction are just a few examples of how our daily lives have changed because of today’s internet.

So what will the next ten years bring to our online world, and how will networks and the internet have to evolve to satisfy the now seemingly insatiable demand for instant access to everything from anywhere?

In order to support the demand for today’s bandwidth-hungry applications such as YouTube, iPlayer and social media sites, networks built a decade ago are being upgraded to carry ten times more traffic than they were originally designed for and, more appropriately, for data-centric versus voice-centric applications. But it’s quite possible that by the second half of this decade we could outgrow even these networks and be faced with the prospect of needing a more expansive redesign of the global network infrastructure. That traffic demand will speed up with the transition to a converged optical ethernet infrastructure.

New technologies like true 3DTV, 3D cameras, augmented reality, voice recognition and non-invasive brain/computer interfaces (perhaps led by the video games industry) will become commonplace and will converge to give birth to applications unfathomable today. The intelligent network will be at the heart of these innovations.

Business travel will be restricted in lieu of more cost-effective solutions like high definition/3D video conferencing, especially as those technologies become more viable. And, the importance of the net will grow in developing nations as internet becomes available for all, stimulating their economies.

The invisible web of machine-to-machine communications will have become pervasive as every day appliances and household items will be web-enabled to help keep our environment healthy and functional. While these devices will individually generate much less network traffic than an average person, the excessively large number of devices on the network and their need to constantly interact will create a different set of challenges to the network than we see today. As part of this trend, bandwidth between large datacentres will also grow dramatically, justifying dedicated networks for internal data movement.

The network will act as a universal resource that is leveraged for the optimal delivery of applications, services and information – regardless of location. With the advent of massive mobile bandwidth, technologies like cloud computing will allow people to house all their information, applications and contacts on the web instead of a private hard drive. This fundamental change in how information is stored will require more intelligent networks that can recognise your location and network device to determine how best to deliver information to you.

Schools around the world will have no lockers, and children won’t need backpacks. That’s because in 10 years the traditional textbooks we know today will be a thing of the past. In 10 years, the internet will have to evolve into a truly high performance globally linked network – in terms of speed, power, and response time – and be based on new network architectures that ride the optical ethernet wave. Otherwise.

Mashood Ahmad is regional managing director for the Middle East at Cienna.

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