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Future trends and implications

Understand the power of a network and the effect of connecting people to the network. What makes the telephone network so useful is that virtually everyone is connected to it. It has become a standard by sheer number of the people using it. By Metcalfe's Law (the same Robert Metcalfe who developed ethernet), the power or utility of a network does not grow as a simple linear function of the number of people in the network; rather, it grows as the square of the number of people connected. This growth is illustrated by the graph in Figure 4–8. As a consequence of Metcalfe's Law, you want to use open, not proprietary, networking protocols. Make it easy to use your company network.

Figure 4-8 Figure 4--8 Graphical illustration of Metcalfe's Law.

A critical mistake by management is to underestimate bandwidth availability when planning new business ventures. Do not kill a project just because it will require a great deal more bandwidth than you currently have. There is not a Moore's Law for bandwidth, but there should be. Bandwidth is growing exponentially and becoming cheaper.

The networks discussed in this chapter (for example, the network in Figure 4–1) are client/server networks. There is a central server machine that serves the client machines on the network. When you use a browser on the Internet, you are working in client/server mode. The browser is downloading files from an HTTP server. This is currently the main paradigm in networking. However, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks in which each machine is both client and server are growing in popularity. An example of a P2P network is Gnutella. This is a file-sharing system on the Internet that allows you to directly search other computers for files and software. In order to do this you need special software that allows your machine to be both a client and a server. When using Gnutella you connect directly to other computers using an IP address (not DNS).

The browser has had an amazing effect on computing. By providing the user with a universal interface to the Internet, the browser is replacing the operating system shell as the user's interface to the computer. In addition, the Internet is replacing the computer. The Internet is making Sun Microsystem's saying, "the network is the computer" look more and more prophetic. Plan your business model around your employees' and customers' having low-cost client machines with high bandwidth connections to the Internet.

Tech Talk

GigaPOP: Gigabit Point of Presence. Very high-speed switching points that connect the backbone of the new Internet2.

The government sponsored ARPANET project was initially used for connecting university computers. It eventually morphed into the Internet and is currently overloaded. The Internet2 is a joint government, university, and industry project to accelerate the creation of tomorrow's Internet. The Internet2 is being administered by UCAID (University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development). Currently, the network is designed to be a leading edge network for the national research community and to foster the development of new Internet technologies. Eventually, these services and technologies will be transferred to the broader community. The original intent of the Internet was to exchange text; the Internet2 is being developed to exchange multimedia data at high-speed. The Internet2 is based upon two very high-speed optical backbones: one is MCI Worldcom's vBNS (very high-speed Bandwidth Network Service), the other is Abilene, also an optical network developed specifically for Internet2 by UCAID. Abilene is initially designed to run at 2.4 Gbps. Connections to the backbone are through GigaPOPs located throughout the country. Internet2 uses the IPv6 addressing scheme (see the Technical Appendix).

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