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

Joe Greco jgreco at ns.sol.net
Tue Apr 22 23:55:08 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.

Yes, but there's no real standard.  It's mostly hodgepodge based
solutions that allow techie types to cobble together some random 
collection of hardware to resolve some particular subset of problems.
What the public wants, though, is for someone to solve this problem
and build it for them.

As an example, consider that it's a lot more popular for home users
to source their DVR from their cable company than it is for them to
get a CableCARD receiver card for their PC and try to roll a MythTV
box for themselves.

> 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.

The magic of TiVo isn't that it records video.  The magic bit is more
abstract, and it is that someone made a device that actually does what
the average consumer _wants_, rather than simply acting as a generic

You actually said it yourself above, "it just seems easier" - but then
you got sidetracked by the loveliness of your PC.  The magic of a TiVo-
like device is that end users perceive it as easier.  The solution that
doesn't involve them learning what torrents are, or filesharing is, or
having to figure out how to hook a computer up to a TV is, because some
TiVo-like device took it and internalized all of that and SOLVED the
problem, and solved it not only for them but a million other TV viewers
at the same time, that's the solution that's going to be truly 

Not your homegrown DVR.

> > 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.

The hell it is.  It's still fundamentally a phone.  That you can reprogram
it to do other things is technologically interesting to a small number of
geeks, but were you to ask the average person "what is this," they'd still
see it as a phone, and see its primary job as making phone calls.

Further, that does not even begin to argue against what I was saying,
which is that most people are NOT making phone calls using VoIP from
their computers.

> 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
> attached.

Yes.  There's a certain amount of sense to that, at least once you needed
to be able to process things at wirespeed.

> > 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!?

I've been right here, serving high bandwidth content for many years.

> You have just described the P2P traffic that ISPs and other network
> operators have been complaining about since the dawn of this century.

No.  I've just described something much worse, because there is the
potential for so much more volume.  TiVo implies that the device can do
speculative fetch, not just the on-demand sort of things most current
P2P networks do.

> TiVo is just one of a thousand brand names for "home computer".

If you want to define "home computer" that way.  Personally, while my
light switches contain microprocessors, and may be reprogrammable, that
does not mean that I view them as computers.  I don't think I can run
X11 on my light switch (even though it's got several LED's).  I don't
think that it's a good idea to try to run FreeBSD on my security system.
I don't think that I'll be able to run OpenOffice on my Cisco 7960G's.
I'm pretty sure that my thermostat isn't good for running Mahjongg.  And
the TiVo probably isn't going to run Internet Explorer anytime soon.

There are microprocessors all over the place.  Possessing a microprocessor,
and even being able to affect the programming that runs on a uP, doesn't
make every such device a home computer.

One of these days, we're going to wake up and discover that someone (and I
guess it's got to be someone more persuasive than Apple with their AppleTV
doodad) is going to create some device that is compelling to users.  I do
not care that it has a microprocessor inside, or even that it may be
programmable.  The thing is likely to be a variation on a set-top box, is
likely to have TiVo-like capabilities, and I'm worried about what's going
to happen to IP networks.

> > > 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.

Agreed :-)  I'm not sure it'll happen all at once, though.

> 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.

Ok, I'll accept that.  Except I'd like to note that the technology that
I have seen that could enable this is probably the Internet; most other
methods of transmission are substantially more restricted (i.e. it's
pretty difficult for me to go and get a satellite uplink, but pretty much
even the most lowly DSL customer probably has a 384k upstream).

> > 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.

I ABSOLUTELY AGREE... that I wish the world worked that way.  ( :-) )

> > > 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
> consumption
> if it levels off because although they may lose money at first, if
> consumption 
> dips and levels then they can make it back over time. If the content
> senders
> do not want this dipping and levelling off, then they will have to foot
> the
> bill for the network capacity.

That's kind of the funniest thing I've seen today, it sounds so much like 
an Ed Whitacre.  I've somewhat deliberately avoided the model of having 
some large-channel-like "content senders" enter this discussion, because 
I am guessing that there will be a large number of people who may simply 
use their existing - paid for - broadband connections.  That's the PTA 
example and probably the "Star Trek: Hidden Frontier" example, and then 
for good measure, throw in everyone who will be self-publishing the 
content that (looking back on today) used to get served on YouTube.  Then
Ed learns that the people he'd like to charge for the privilege of using
"his" pipes are already paying for pipes.

> 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
> opex
> to maintain any level of capex investment. There ain't no free lunch.

I certainly agree, that's why this discussion is relevant.

> > 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. 

Right, that's a "problem" I'm seeing too.

> 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.

So, consider what would happen if that were to be something that you could
self-manage, outsourcing the hard work to an advertising provider.  Call 
it maybe Google AdVideos.  :-)  Host the video on your TiVo, or your PC,
and take advantage of your existing bandwidth.  (There are obvious non-
self-hosted models already available, I'm not focusing on them, but they
would work too)

> > 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.

I would think that has some operational aspects that are worth talking

> > 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.

That's true, but it's also quite possible that we'll see it decentralize
further.  Why should I pay someone to host content if I could just share
it from my PC...  I'm not saying that I _want_ Microsoft to wake up and
realize that it has a path to strike at some portions of Google, et.al, 
by changing the very nature of Internet content distribution, but it's a
significant possibility.  That P2P networks work as well as they do says
gobs about the potential.

> > 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.

Then it's part of your TV system, not really a personal computer.

> 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.

That's possible, but there are still some display ergonomics issues 
with watching things on a computer.  AppleTV is perfectly capable of
downloading YouTube and displaying it on a TV; this is not at issue.
iPhones are _also_ capable of it, but that does not mean that you are
going to want to watch hour-long TV shows on your iPhone with the rest
of your family...  that's where having a large TV set, surrounded by
some furniture that people can relax on comes in.

In any case, the point is still that I think there will be a serious
problem if and when someone comes up with a TiVo-like device that 
implements what I like to refer to as InterneTiVo.  That all the
necessary technology to implement this is available TODAY is completely
irrelevant; it is going to take someone taking all the technical bits,
figuring out how to glue it all together in a usable way, package it
up to hide the gory details, and then sell it as a set-top box for 
$cheap in the same way that TiVo did.  When TiVo did that, not only
did they make "DVR" a practical reality for the average consumer, but
they also actually managed to succeed at a more abstract level - the
device they designed wasn't just capable of recording Channel 22 from
8:00PM to 9:00PM every Wednesday night, but was actually capable of
analyzing the broadcast schedule, picking up shows at whatever time
they were available, rescheduling around conflicts, and even looking
for things that were similar, that a user might like.  A TiVo isn't
a "DVR" (in the sense of the relatively poor capabilities of most of
the devices that bear that tag) so much as it is a personal video 

So what I'm thinking of is a device that is doing the equivalent of
being a "personal video assistant" on the Internet.  And I believe it
is coming.  Something that's capable of searching out and speculatively
downloading the things it thinks you might be interested in.  Not some
techie's cobbled together PC with BitTorrent and HDMI outputs.  An
actual set-top box that the average user can use.

> > 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.

If it weren't for the internet, I doubt that IP would be as widely
supported by routers.   :-)  Something always drives technology.

The hardware specifics of this is getting a bit off-topic, at least
for this list.  Do we agree that there's a potential model in the
future where video may be speculatively fetched off the Internet and
then stored for possible viewing, and if so, can we refocus a bit on

... JG
Joe Greco - sol.net Network Services - Milwaukee, WI - http://www.sol.net
"We call it the 'one bite at the apple' rule. Give me one chance [and] then I
won't contact you again." - Direct Marketing Ass'n position on e-mail spam(CNN)
With 24 million small businesses in the US alone, that's way too many apples.

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