Robert Cringely writes:
Google intends to take over most of the functions of existing fixed networks in our lives, notably telephone and cable television.
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.
In a follow-on post, Cringely writes that the only way to compete is through P2P networks.
if there is going to be an alternative to Google, that will have to be us, too.
It’s pretty simple, really. As more and more video hits the web, ISPs will find themselves crushed by demand that will drive up their backbone costs until all profit is driven from their businesses. Google will come to the rescue with regional data centers that will peer with local ISPs and relieve them of much of that burden, allowing the ISPs to actually cut back their backbone connections and run fewer servers, though at the cost of losing the big movie studio and TV network business deals those ISPs currently think will eventually make them rich. If we look at what Google will be offering, it is bandwidth and server power. So to compete with Google will require bandwidth and server power.