Uncommon Wisdom

Oct 22 2009   1:56PM GMT

Internet’s classic model no longer the reality

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

An interesting piece on the evolution of the Internet shows pretty convincingly that the classic model is being replaced by a new one where content portals and content delivery networks (CDNs) peer with access ISPs, eliminating more and more of the classical notion of an Internet backbone.

We’ve talked about this trend often. Experiences are a resource-to-user connection and not a user-user connection and thus don’t demand universal peer connectivity. While in theory, there are many resources available on the Internet, the practical reality is that most of them are found at statistically insignificant rates and contribute nothing to value and traffic—today.

The challenge we now face is whether the profit-driven evolution toward content concentration and experience networking is going to change the nature of the Internet. Is it becoming a big TV network, in effect? How much of what broadband policy is trying to preserve in the way of innovation and flexibility is already being lost to a quiet restructuring? We aren’t railing against the changes, only against the fact that we’re not facing them squarely and talking about the consequences.

Google, for example, is building the most connective resource center on the planet, and with that, it has a jump on any new application, not to mention the older ones. All of the talk about how Internet traffic is growing (Cisco) or how operators’ backbones are expanding (AT&T, Verizon) treats the Internet as homogeneous. It’s not, and how its structure is changing is critical to everyone.

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