The Internet is Full, Again - Will it Scale?
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But is this slowdown in service really necessary? Is there any reason why we can't keep doing as we've done before and continue to add capacity? Back in February, Vincent Dureau, head of TV technology at Google, seemed to think this could be a problem. In a speech he gave at the Cable Europe Conference in Amsterdam, he said that "The web infrastructure, even Google's, does not scale. It is not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect."
Past history doesn't bear this out. Eve Griliches, telecom analyst at research firm IDC, noted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that many of these kinds of concerns were raised five years ago, but a surge of innovation laid them to rest. "It feels like we are hyping again," she reflected. "When we did this before, we found intelligent ways to handle problems with bandwidth."
And it's not as if technology is at a standstill today. Cisco says it is working on new hardware that will actually prioritize packet transmission, not simply move the data. This could add another level of control - and sanity - to the chaos. And Cisco is hardly alone; its competitors are working on something similar.
It is true that there is some cause for concern. Cisco thinks video streaming and downloads will increase from nine percent of all consumer Internet traffic up to 30 percent by 2011. But let's put this in perspective: right now, YouTube, the most popular video sharing site in the U.S., accounts for only four percent of North American consumer Internet traffic.
On the other hand, if consumers start downloading huge, high-quality video files to play later on their high-definition TV sets, we could start seeing some real traffic jams. The Wall Street Journal article puts this in perspective by noting that 40 hours of high-definition video takes up the same amount of bandwidth as one million email messages. In short, if this particular use of the Internet catches on, it could be much worse than the jump in spam we've seen in recent years.
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