What happens when the Internet crashes?

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I am worried. I published a blog on http://www.cloudtweaks.com on the total bandwidth available and could that bandwidth support 100% of the world’s population consuming Internet services.

The answer is no.

The problem is growing. First off the number of things that are on the Internet and available for consumption is growing. From Netflix and Hulu to the various network services all are available. You can watch your DISH, Direct TV, Comcast, Verizon and other TV providers content anywhere on any device (well not Windows 8 phones in all cases).

You can consume your corporate email from home.

The speed of light is more than an Albert sat down and figured out that light has limits, it is the current maximum. Yes it is conceivable that in fact humans will break that barrier in the future (opening up 10 times 10 to the 10th more bandwidth) but until then there is a cap on the total available bandwidth.

CDN solutions (Akamai, Level 3 etc.) provide an interesting partial answer to the problem as do WAN Accelerators (Riverbed). They reduce the duplicate packets being sent around the network. But at most going forward for the entirety of the Internet that is going to be a 10% savings overall. That as much as to do with the uniqueness of data requests going to different end points. IE, if person a on an iPhone and person b on a android phone both request a movie from Netflix and it happens to be the same movie, it is only common data to the point of separation. IE, if the first person is at Starbucks and the second person is at the office, the point of separation is well before either the companies network for person b, and the Starbucks network or AT&T network for person a.

At some point we will reach the reality of saturation. What happens then? I’ve argued for some time now that for an initial saturation point the Internet will simply crash. Topple over. Reach as Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently wrote “its tipping point.” What happens after that first crash?

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow