zaterdag 20 januari 2007

Google's bandwith strategy

A while ago I wrote about Robert Arn's analysis of why bandwith will be a huge bottleneck in the mass adoption of watching video over the web. There simply isn't enough bandwith available to let everyone watch TV using services like Joost or YouTube. Many people tend to think P2P will be the answer, but that's not true. It might solve only part of the problem. It's sometimes amazing to see how difficult it is for many people to see the obvious. Robert Cringely did an interesting analysis and also presents a scenario where Google will be the dominant force. Intruiging, but not very likely. Below you will find the core of his definition of the problem, read his article for a solution and Techmeme for further discussion.

“The Internet as we know it is a shell game, with ISPs building their profits primarily on how many users they can have practically share the same Internet connection. Based on the idea that most users aren’t on the net at the same time and even when they are online they are mainly between keystrokes and doing little or nothing when viewed on a per-millisecond basis, ISPs typically leverage the Internet bandwidth they have purchased by a factor of at least 20X and sometimes as much as 100X, which means that DSL line or cable modem that you think is delivering multi-megabits per second is really only guaranteeing you as much bandwidth as you could get with most dial-up accounts.

This bandwidth leveraging hasn’t been a problem to date, but it is about to become a huge problem as we all embrace Internet video. When we are all grabbing one to two hours of high-quality video per day off the net, there is no way the current network infrastructure will support that level of use. At that point we can accept that the Internet can’t do what we are asking it to do OR we can find a way to make the Internet do what we are asking it to do. Enter Google and its many, many regional data centers to fill this gap.

Looking at this problem from another angle, right now somewhat more than half of all Internet bandwidth is being used for BitTorrent traffic, which is mainly video. Yet if you surveyed your neighbors you’d find that few of them are BitTorrent users. Less than 5 percent of all Internet users are presently consuming more than 50 percent of all bandwidth. Broadband ISPs hate these super users and would like to find ways to isolate or otherwise reject them. It’s BitTorrent — not Yahoo or Google — that has been the target of the anti-net neutrality trash talk from telcos and cable companies. But the fact is that rather than being an anomaly, these are simply early adopters and we’ll all soon follow in their footsteps. And when that happens, there won’t be enough bandwidth to support what we want to do from any centralized perspective. A single data center, no matter how large, won’t be enough. Google is just the first large player to recognize this fact as their building program proves.

It is becoming very obvious what will happen over the next two to three years. More and more of us will be downloading movies and television shows over the net and with that our usage patterns will change. Instead of using 1-3 gigabytes per month, as most broadband Internet users have in recent years, we’ll go to 1-3 gigabytes per DAY — a 30X increase that will place a huge backbone burden on ISPs. Those ISPs will be faced with the option of increasing their backbone connections by 30X, which would kill all profits, OR they could accept a peering arrangement with the local Google data center.”

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