[Nanog] ATT VP: Internet to hit capacity by 2010

michael.dillon at bt.com michael.dillon at bt.com
Tue Apr 22 19:44:38 UTC 2008

> > You mean a computer? Like the one that runs file-sharing clients?
> Like the one that nobody really wants to watch large 
> quantities of television on?  Especially now that it's pretty 
> common to have large, flat screen TV's, and watching TV even 
> on a 24" monitor feels like a throwback to the '80's?
> How about the one that's shaped like a TiVo and has a 
> built-in remote control, sane operating software, can be 
> readily purchased and set up by a non-techie, and is known to 
> work well?

Maybe I have a warped sense of how normal people set up their
home networks but I do notice all kinds of network storage for
sale in local computer shops, and various multi-media player devices
that connect to a TV screen, network, etc. I can understand why
a TiVo collects content over the air, because it has TV receivers 
built into it. My PVR does much the same thing. But when it comes
to collecting content from the Internet, it seems easier to just
let the file server do that job. Or run the nice easy software on
your home PC that allows you to search the web for torrents and
just click on the ones you want to download.

Let's face it, TiVo may have a lot of mindshare in that people
constantly talk about the thing as if it was some kind of magic,
but it hardly has the same kind of market share as the iPod.
The functions of that the TiVo carries out are software and 
software is rather malleable. The functions of the various devices
can be mixed and matched in various ways. We can't predict which
combos will prevail, but we can make a pretty close guess as to
the functionality of the whole system.

> I remember all the fuss about how people would be making 
> phone calls using VoIP and their computers.  Yet most of the 
> time, I see VoIP consumers transforming VoIP to legacy POTS, 
> or VoIP hardphones, or stuff like that.  

Cisco sells computers that look like a telephone set but have
and Ethernet jack out the back. Whether you use the Gizmoproject 
software on a PC or one of these Cisco devices, you are still
making VoIP calls on a computer. The appearance of a telephone
is not terribly relevant. My mobile phone is a computer with
Python installed on it to run a Russian-English dictionary application
but it also includes a two-way radio transciever that is programmed
to talk to a local cell transciever and behave like a telephone. 
But it is still a computer at heart.

Anyone remember when a switch was a switch and a router was a router?
Now both of them are backplanes with computers and port interfaces

> Wow.  Okay.  I'll just say, then, that such a position seems 
> a bit naive, and I suspect that broadband networks are going 
> to be crying about the sheer stresses on their networks, when 
> moderate numbers of people begin to upload videos into their 
> TiVo, which then share them with other TiVo's owned by their 
> friends around town, or across an ocean, while also 
> downloading a variety of shows from a dozen off-net sources, etc.

Where have you been!?
You have just described the P2P traffic that ISPs and other network
operators have been complaining about since the dawn of this century.
TiVo is just one of a thousand brand names for "home computer".

> > Yes. The overall trend has been to increasingly split the 
> market into 
> > smaller slivers with additional choices being added and older ones 
> > still available.
> Yes, but that's still a broadcast model.  We're talking about 
> an evolution (potentially _r_evolution) of technology where 
> the broadcast model itself is altered.

I would say that splitting the market for content into many
small slivers (a forest of shards) is pretty much a revolution.
Whatever technology is used to deliver this forest of shards is
irrelevant because the revolution is in the creation of this
information superhighway with thousands of channels. And even
though the concept predated the exponential growth of the Internet
let's not forget that the web has been there and done that.

> 2) Hard drives continue to grow, and the ability to store 
> more, combined
>    with higher bit rates (HD, less artifact, whatever) means that more
>    bits can be transferred to fill the same amount of time

This is key. Any scenario that does not expect the end user to amass a
huge library of content for later viewing, is missing an important
component. And if that content library is encrypted or locked in some
way so that it is married to one brand name device, or pay-per-view 
systems, then the majority of the market will pass it by.

> > and a more-or-less
> > fixed portion of people's disposable income. Based on this, I don't 
> > expect to see any really huge changes.
> That's fair enough.  That's optimistic (from a network 
> operator's point of view.)  I'm afraid that such changes will 
> happen, however.

Bottom line is that our networks must be paid for. If consumers want to
use more of our financial investment (capital and opex) then we will be
forced to raise prices up to a level where it limits demand to what we
can actually deliver. Most networks can live with a step up in
if it levels off because although they may lose money at first, if
dips and levels then they can make it back over time. If the content
do not want this dipping and levelling off, then they will have to foot
bill for the network capacity. And if they want to recover that cost
from the
end users then they will also run into that limit in the amount of money

people are able to spend on entertainment per month.

Broadcast models were built based on a delivery system that scaled up as
big as you want with only capex. But an IP network requires a lot of
to maintain any level of capex investment. There ain't no free lunch.

> The problem with that is that there's money to be had, and if 
> you let YouTube host your video, it's YouTube getting the 
> juicy ad money.

The only difference from 1965 network TV is that in 1965, the networks
had limited sources capable of producing content at a reasonable cost.
But today, content production is cheap, and competition has driven the
cost of content down to zero. Only the middleman selling ads has a
business model any more. Network operators could fill that middleman
role but most of them are still stuck in the telco/ISP mindset.

> Well, that's the point I'm making.  It isn't, and we're going 
> to see SOMEONE look at this wonderful Internet thingy and see 
> in it a way to "solve" this problem, which is going to turn 
> into an operational nightmare as traffic loads increase, and 
> a larger percentage of users start to either try to use the 
> bandwidth they're being "sold," or actually demand it.

If this really happens, then some companies will fix their marketing
and sales contracts, others will go into Chapter 11. But at the end
of the day, as with the telecom collapse, the networks keep rolling
on even if the management changes.

> For example, consider the PTA meeting: I'm not sure if 
> YouTube is going to want to be dealing with maybe 10,000 
> videos that are each an hour or two long which are watched by 
> maybe a handful of people, at however frequently your local 
> PTA meetings get held.  Becuase there's a lot of PTA's.  And 
> the meetings can be long.  Further, it's a perfect situation 
> where you're likely to be able to keep a portion of the 
> traffic on-net through geolocality effects.

You're right. People are already building YouTube clones or
adding YouTube like video libraries to their websites. This
software combined with lots of small distributed data centers
like Amazon EC2, is likely where local content will go. Again
one wonders why Google and Amazon and Yahoo are inventing
this stuff rather than ISPs. Probably because after the wave 
of acquisition by telcos, they neglected the data center half
of the ISP equation. In other words, there are historical 
reasons based on ignorance, but no fundamental barrier to 
large carriers offering something like Hadoop, EC2, AppEngine.

> I would say that it is very much NOT the same experience as 
> programming a PVR.  I watch exceedingly little video on the 
> computer, for example.  I simply prefer the TV.

Maybe PVR doesn't mean the same stateside as here in the UK.
My PVR is a box with two digital TV receivers and 180 gig
hard drive that connects to a TV screen. All interaction is
through the remote and the TV. The difference between this
and P2P video is only the software and the screen we watch it on.
By the way, my 17-month old loves YouTube videos. There may
be a generational thing coming down the road similar to the
way young people have ditched email in favour of IM.

> There are lots of things that multicast can be used for, and 
> there's no question that financial data could be useful that 
> way.  However, what I'm saying is that this isn't 
> particularly relevant on the public Internet in a general 
> way.  

If it were not for these market data feeds, I doubt that
IP multicast would be as widely supported by routers.

> The real problem is that neither your financial transactions 
> nor any meaningful amount of video are able to transit 
> multicast across random parts of the public Internet, which 
> is a bit of a sticking point.

Then there is P2MP (Point to Multi-Point) MPLS...

--Michael Dillon

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