Huh? Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday (January 22, 2015) said, “… the Internet will disappear …” – so much for sound bites. What Schmidt is really saying is that the Internet will be omnipresent. People will no longer need to think about physically connecting devices to or even building out networks. The network will be so prevalent and so much a part of everything we do that we won’t even consciously need to think about the network. Yes, this is a bold statement for sure. But, as we move into an era of an Internet of Things (IoT), at some time in the not too distant future we might just see the Internet “disappear.”
So, in order to make it possible for the network to be invisible, it will have to undergo a significant transformation. Here are a few key elements to watch for. First, today’s communications service providers (CSPs) provide services that are based on connectivity. A customer pays a fixed recurring fee for (1) connectivity and (2) the ability to transfer data at certain peak rate – X Mbps. With the IoT, we have multiple billions of devices. A business model based on peak rates won’t make sense for all of these things. We will need have a pay-per-use model. In other words, each device will always be connected. Fees incurred will be based resources consumed with possible premiums incurred based on the quality of service provided. Today, a number of CSPs are talking about bandwidth on-demand (BoD) services. While this is a certainly a step in the right direction, BoD is only the first baby step.
Second, the market today features different service providers (SPs) providing a whole host of different services. For example, some SPs provide networking while other SPs may provide cloud services. With the IoT, the fundamental build blocks are compute, storage and the connectivity to/from these. Service providers need to deliver an integrated, well-packaged and uniform XaaS including all three elements. While we’ve seen consolidation in the marketplace, e.g., Verizon’s acquisition of Terremark and CenturyLink’s acquisition of Savvis, this consolidation is only bringing pieces together. And service providers are incorporating SDN and NFV orchestration as an enabling technologies for more flexible and dynamic service offerings across these domains. Again, this is a great start. But, we will need new dynamics services that bring compute, storage and connectivity together.
Third, the network today is largely controlled by a handful of large operators who have independently planned and carefully architected their own networks. The IoT place devices anywhere and mobility will obviates any locational correlation between device and provider. Thus, IoT drives a network that is truly multi-provider. Service providers need to work together so the users and devices can share a common experience independent of the details of the underlying network. The network needs to be amorphous, self-optimizing and adaptible to the movement of existing devices and the addition of new devices.
We, as an industry, are seeing movement in the right direction. SDN provides network agility and service automation. NFV enables dynamic network functionality. Multi-domain orchestration facilitates the creation and administration of services across a complex heterogeneous environment. So, will the Internet “disappear?” It may or it may not. Regardless, the network is changing and we are moving forward. Stay tuned.