We started with the PC in the 80s. We added bandwidth in the form of relatively slow networks and began pushing what used to be local data into data centers. The rise of the network operating system – NetWare, Banyan Vines, OS/2, Winodws NT – continued this centralization movement where the PC became a node on the larger network and the data center sprawled as we added server after server after server to support every new need. We had print servers, web servers, file servers, application servers and servers for other individual tasks. Along with this rise came the Internet and, during this time as well, local bandwidth surged from 10Mbps to 100 Mbps to 1 GbE and even 10 GbE connectivity. In order to reign in some of this sprawl, virtualization came on the scene. From all of the content on this site, the fruits of those labors are obvious; we’ve moved quickly toward on-demand services that we can grow and contract as needs rise and fall.
Now, cloud services are on the scene. As we grow that bandwidth from our data centers to the outside world, we enable these bandwidth-consuming cloud services. The more bandwidth we add, the more services we can push out to the cloud and make available from, well, anywhere. No longer do we care about where services run; they just run in (hopefully) highly available environments.
What does it take to get to this virtual panacea? Bandwidth. Today, I attended a session of the MOBroadband initiative, a group of people in Missouri working on bringing broadband services to our most rural areas, and we have a lot in this state. It brought home to me just how far we’ve come, but more importantly, how far we have yet to go in realizing the cloud dreams. Broadband is the new railroad, the new electricity, the new interstate system — whatever analogy you use, it’s apparent that states that don’t take broadband initiatives seriously will miss out on the next wave of computing and, as a result, could miss out on critical business development opportunities.
Missouri in fortunate in that a number of public/private partnerships yielded grants totaling $300 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These funds will be used to enhance education, healthcare, government, business, entertainment and many other sectors that rely more and more on ubiquitous broadband.
We have a lot of challenges ahead of us — as a nation. Access, affordability and sustainability are challenges that must be overcome. While the rising demand for bandwidth continues unsatiated, we need to make sure that technologies that we’re deploying today – those that require massive capital investment – are sufficient to support tomorrow’s needs. In the US, we face the unique challenge of having to replace an infrastructure that’s been in place for 100 years and more – the telephone network. We don’t have the luxury of simply deploying a new service in an unserved area. Ensuring that current services continue to be supported even as we roll out new ones is a challenge we have to face and overcome.
While I never expected my career path to include moving to Missouri, I’m really happy to be in a state that was only one of six to receive massive amounts of support for these initiatives due in no small part to execellent planning. Once we execute on the plans coming forth, we’ll be well positioned to continue our foray into cloud services and level the broadband playing field for our citizens and businesses.