Faster, cheaper, more ubiquitous bandwidth has spawned a decade of new applications that depend on it as a platform: Google (s GOOG), YouTube, Twitter, Hulu. The bigger pipes, the richer the application. What will higher bandwidth speeds, wider-reaching networks and cheaper access to connections produce in another decade? Well, if the panel made up by service providers and infrastructure gear makers at Structure knew for sure, they’d be on their way to producing the next Google. But a decade of bandwidth growth “will change the world another time,” said Kenneth Duda, VP Software Engineering Arista Networks. “We cant even imagine the possibilities,” said Tobias Ford, Assistant VP of IT AT&T, but suggested possibly bandwidth-needy applications like telepresence and telemedicine.
In a decade, the panelists, and members of the audience, said they hope that the bandwidth discussion moves away from focusing on speed — basically the speed is so high it’s no longer an issue — and moves towards the user interface and applications. In that world, when as much bandwidth as possible is readily and instantly available, service providers could start offering “broadband as a service.” David Yen, EVP and GM of the Data Center Business Group, Juniper Networks, thinks broadband as a service is on its way as service providers face a challenging market of escalating traffic and flat sales. Service providers need to offer more services to recoup the investment of the network buildout, said Yen, and “broadband as a service” can provide that. As soon as it does get here it will be “enormously valuable,” noted AT&T’s Ford.
But in reality, it could take a lot longer than a decade for instant, all-you-can-eat broadband. Internet service providers, infrastructure makers, and web services companies have been saying the same thing for years and there are a variety of challenges. One of the biggest hurdles right now for instant access is the transport layer, said Michelle Munson, President Co-founder Aspera. We have ways to engineer around the transport bottleneck but it’s still a limitation when it comes to massive data sets like those that come from an industry like genomics, Munson said. Mark Taylor, VP Product Management Content Delivery and Vyvx, Level 3 Communications, thinks it will take time for the service providers to build out the networks so that they reach everywhere, but as costs come down the buildout will speed up.
Whatever technical and market problems, it’s all about quality of service, said Juniper’s Yen — bandwidth, reliability and security will all be equally important (and leagues better) in a decade. And sometimes, it’s just not about the actual size of the bandwidth at all. Arista’s Duda pointed out since a Mack truck filled with magnetic tapes has a massive amount of bandwidth, why not move data around via truck? Cause that’s an issue for latency, ie it takes a whole heckofa long time.