Next Generation Networks
I have always marveled at how quickly the Information Technology landscape has changed. A prime example of the magnitude of the change comes from my two daughters.
Although my oldest girl has barely reached school age, she grew up at a time when it was still common to read newspapers. As a small toddler, one of her favorite distractions was to climb on her father’s newspaper, either to appear to be reading or perhaps to be the center of attention. Maybe even both.
While my youngest daughter is only five years junior to her sister, she has been born into a completely different era. As we have replaced newspapers with tablets in our household a couple of years ago, she could not care less about newspapers. Outside of eating them, she has no idea about their purpose. At the same time, though, the tablet is about the coolest thing in the world to her – that and the remote for our smart TV.
Based on my experiences on the homefront, I think it is safe to say that the mobile industry has by now penetrated throughout Western societies. The Internet of Things is also well on its way as our smart TV goes to show. It is an apparent development in many families and companies alike.
Bandwidth Traffic Jam
Interestingly, however, the networks that connect all these devices are still mostly based on technologies that were developed in the 80s and the 90s. Due to this, the general quality of Internet services has been gradually degrading over the last couple of years as service providers have been struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing Internet use.
Although disrupted connectivity is not such a big deal when my older daughter is streaming Barbie videos from YouTube, there is an increasing number of online services and connected devices for which network connectivity may be critical. The further the Internet of Things streams ahead, the more connected critical devices and services there will be.
Net Neutrality – Will It Work?
Well-meaning initiatives such as Net Neutrality are not likely to improve the status quo in any way. One of my colleagues explained to me that he is pro Net Neutrality, since he does not like the idea of large service providers taking away bandwidth from the little guy in order to give it to the better-paying corporation. In reality, though, I am not sure if this is what Net Neutrality is really about.
As it happens, networks are not that different from roads. In rural areas, one tends to have relatively little traffic and so all vehicles on the road are able to make free use of the different lanes. The same applies to many urban areas during nighttime and weekends when there is not so much traffic. At the same time, many cities and states have introduced bus lanes and special lanes for carpooling during busy hours, to make sure that the traffic flows more efficiently. The examples abound.
One of the ways the traffic conditions have been improved over time is through use of technology. The number of lanes has been increased. Bridges and tunnels have been built. Road-tolls, various telemetric systems and dedicated lanes have been introduced to make sure that societies are able to handle the increased amount of traffic, and that those investments can be financed. In certain situations, priority is given to certain vehicles for well-grounded reasons, yet no one is concerned that this would threaten the equality in the societies we live in.
In the same way, network infrastructure vendors and the service provisioning industry has embarked on a transition that is as large as the Internet was some 20 years ago. With new technologies such as Software-Defined Networking and Network Functions Virtualization, service providers will be able to introduce elastic network infrastructure that is able to configure itself for optimal flow of data. These technologies will largely make obsolete the need for policies such as Net Neutrality, because ultimately they do not aim at redistributing the existing bandwidth, but rather expand the abilities and services that will be available to all of us.
Assuming the service provisioning industry is able to finance the associated infrastructure investments through prioritizing the data that flows through their networks, I really do not see an issue. After all, what it really means is that the large corporations and the government will pick up the bill for network infrastructure overhaul that benefits us all. Introducing Net Neutrality would just curb that, which is exactly why for example Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has stated that Net Neutrality will not be introduced in Germany.
By Juha Holkkola,
Juha is chief executive of FusionLayer, (formerly Nixu Software) the technology company that streamlines cloud and application delivery in next generation data centers. He joined Nixu in early 2000 and has since held various business and sales management positions. Before Nixu, Juha worked for Nokia Networks and financial services company Danske Bank in marketing and treasury functions.