Three decades is a long time to be in the same industry, even one as historically slow-moving as telecommunications. It’s certainly long enough to become familiar with the typical rate of change. Looking back over my thirty-year telecom tenure, it’s clear that bigger changes are happening at an accelerating pace.
A quick look at how long it takes people to pick up new technologies is enough to prove this observation. By considering technologies that have come to dominate our lives over the past 100 years and examining how long it took each to reach 50 million users, we discover a few interesting things.
Let’s start with the technology that started the communication-at-a-distance revolution: the ubiquitous telephone. It took 75 years for Bell to attract 50 million subscribers after rolling out the telephone in 1876. Then, from the first TV broadcast in 1929, it took a relatively short 33 years to garner 50 million viewers. The World-Wide Web took only four years, starting in 1991, to reach this milestone. More recently Angry Birds, as mentioned elsewhere on this site by Rhonda Holloway, hit the market in 2009 and it took just 35 days for 50 million users to catch on.
With adoption time frames collapsing from almost a century to a little over a month, clearly the pace of adoption is accelerating. But astute readers will point out that I’m not exactly making fair comparisons regarding technology deployments. The first two (the telephone and television) depend on infrastructure deployments that require huge investments of expertise, construction, equipment and time. The second two (the WWW and Angry Birds) are “just software,” which, without seeming disingenuous, is much easier and faster to deploy.
And that is indeed the case; software is in general easier to deploy and the future of networking is not hardware; it’s software. To manage the hyper-connected, always-on, high-bandwidth demands of the Internet of Everything, networks will be forced to evolve in ways that are unimaginable if we keep thinking about operating them in the same hardware-oriented way we always have. The network must become a programmable entity and evolve beyond mere physical infrastructure.
Are your network and your operations capabilities prepared for Angry Birds deployment speed? My next few posts will explain how you can achieve a programmable network, leverage new hardware and software technology advancements and ultimately, implement the disaggregated network of the future.