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Now That The Exaflood's Debunked, Fear The Exacloud!

from the looming-capacitastrophe dept

Cable and phone company lobbyists (and their army of PR, consultant and think tank friends) have long pushed the bogus concept of an "exaflood," or the idea that explosive Internet growth will result in the Internet collapsing any day now. The argument is generally used by telecom lobbyists to scare politicians and the public into supporting something (deregulation, subsidies, higher prices, fewer consumer protections) lest the Internet explode. The problem is that the argument has been debunked countless times by real network researchers like Dr. Andrew Odlyzko of MINTS -- who highlight that traffic growth is actually quite reasonable, and what growth there is can be easily dealt with by intelligent network engineers and modest network investment. If carriers aren't investing money back into the network, it has nothing to do with bandwidth bogeymen -- it's usually because they face limited competition.

The exaflood term itself was actually coined by Bret Swanson, formerly of the Discovery Institute -- the think tank hired by evangelicals to help push creationism into the classroom via "intelligent design." Under the employ of major carriers, Swanson first used the term in a 2007 Wall Street Journal editorial, and despite it being largely nonsense -- it quickly became a common phrase in modern telecom lexicon. Of course the exaflood never arrived because it doesn't actually exist, but that's not slowing Swanson down. With the FCC considering network neutrality rules, Swanson (now under his his own brand: Entropy Economics) has given the ungracefully-aging exaflood myth a botox injection, based on filings this week with the FCC (via Ars Technica):

"We are intrigued by one particular innovation just around the corner. Call it online gaming. Call it cloud streaming. We call it the "exacloud." It is cloud computing but of a scope and scale never seen before. . . This exacloud will transform video games, movies, virtual worlds, business software, and most other media. Piracy goes away. So do DVDs, game boxes, and maybe even expensive personal computers. New content and software subscription models open up. Based in the cloud instead of on your device, interactivity thrives."

This miracle, piracy-curing super computing evolution Swanson references? It's just ordinary people using clients to access servers using networks. While Swanson throws out a lot of data points in his filing, none of them dispute the reality that Internet traffic growth remains reasonable and manageable. Amusingly, he even goes so far as to use the MINTs data that debunked his original claims -- as evidence supporting his "new" argument. It appears that all he's done is rename his imaginary bandwidth apocalypse for a more modern audience -- and hoped nobody would notice. He at least could have been a little more entertaining. How about the Tubeogeddon? BitTorrentialCollapse? The Tubeacalype? Capacitastrophe? The looming colocaust? Help us out...



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    abc gum, May 4th, 2010 @ 5:07am

    Loss of Information

    Entropy Economics - What kind of a name is that?
    The word can have many meanings but this usage has a strange almost sinister connotation.

    Cloud Computing may have its place somewhere (in the cloud) but it is not for me. I like having my computer right here thank you.

    This sounds like another ill fated attempt to change the web from a communications platform into a media distribution failure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Big_Mike (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 5:30am

    There will be a merge of cloud computing and personal computers but I really don't think people will want to loose the personal computer. Less things will be done on the computer and more in the cloud (look at Google docs) but with a network that can be taken out for hours by a single car accident, the days of pure cloud computing is in the hands of the small rural cable companies that can't afford to upgrade. It's the weakest link effect.

     

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  3.  
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    Adam Wasserman (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re: Loss of Information

    >Entropy Economics - What kind of a name is that?

    A tautological name.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 7:06am

    names

    "Capacitastrophe" is excellent.

    I've always thought of it as "infopocalypse," but apparently some people use that term to mean something else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 7:54am

    Chicken or Egg?

    "This post is part of the IT Innovation series, sponsored by Oracle & Intel. Read more at ITInnovation.com."Intel & Oracle are both card carrying founding members of the Coalition for Patent Piracy & Fairness.

    So the question is what came first, TechDIRT's anti-inventor & patent stance or sponsorship?



    Ronald J. Riley,

    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 - (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    BBT, May 4th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Re: Chicken or Egg?

    Something I've always been curious about-

    Do guys like you know that you're insufferable douchebags, or are you blissfully unaware?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    The opening salvo from Bret is:

    "The network of networks known as the Internet is
    growing in power, vibrancy, complexity, and
    openness. So is the content flowing through it.
    The Internet has grown so fast, in part, because of
    the simple (and few) rules that govern the space."

    Yes, that works!

    The old Colonel here is going to copy and paste
    those first two sentences in every post, email,
    forum, blog, etc. for a long time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Matt McIntyre, May 4th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    Re: Chicken or Egg?

    It truly does not matter who sponsored the article. Information has always been Opinion based. If anyone and that includes you, is dumb enough to take it at face value well, you deserve all the bad things you get yourself into because of your lack of intellect. Also that B.S. at the end, where you list your apparent achievements, man that just makes you look like a self preening snottbag, leave that out next time, and maybe people will take you serious.

    I enjoyed the article and well Businesses do use doom and gloom, almost all that is made up to support them, to influence legal policies. But I agree with the writer of this article. Couldn’t he have come up with something flashier or better sounding? ExaCloud, Cloud, really, it sounds like a hippie commune tried going Ultra Tech. Oh well I guess he’s from Hollywood, they also have problems coming up with decent things like movies and movie names.

     

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  9.  
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    Richard (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Chicken or Egg?

    Ronald

    For your own sake, let it go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Re: Chicken or Egg?

    Which came first, the tinfoil hat or the list of shill organizations in your signature?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2010 @ 11:37am

    Piracy is going to be the sole cause of the 2012 apocalypse. This is what ancient civilizations were warning us against.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Chicken or Egg?

    Ron,

    Well, lemme think about it. Mike started writing Techdirt as an email of his thoughts on technology while a MBA student at Cornell, a program he entered straight from undergrad. I was on his list at the time, and liked the ideas and news updates.

    So, you're wondering if IBM and Intel got to him first, saying, "Hey, let's buy out some young, unproven student, with no work experience, no readers, no followers, and no credibility, and fund him to start an email newsletter to his friends who are into technology. Yeah, that makes sense.

    So then, Mike bounces around a few Silicon Valley jobs, including Intel and some startups, while continuing to write his newsletter on the side. He starts using the blog format when it emerges as an easy publishing tool. He has no ads, few (but increasing) readers. He carries on, honing his opinions, steadily learning and taking measured positions, but never suddenly changing his stance. People must like what they read, because readership grows.

    At some point, he realizes blogging can be the foundation of a business, and decides to continue giving the blog away for free, but to experiment with revenue-generating opportunities like advisory services that can be augmented by a free popular blog. Revenues are slow for a long while, but business steadily grows, and he learns to experiment with other revenue ideas built around a popular and free blog.

    Eventually he takes ads, sponsorships, has an expert community, sells some swag, and that brings us to today.

    So, once again, you wonder if this was all part of an elaborate scheme (by IBM, MSFT, and Intel) to undermine the patent system started in 1996 when they chose a nobody MBA student that they could own and control for a payoff by 2006 when he started having concrete ideas about the incredible, under-exposed value of public domain. That's fairly paranoid. The facts don't support it.

    And, BTW, pro public domain does not equal anti-inventor.

    You are not a rational man. If an alien landed on Earth, and had to evaluate whether you, or Masnick had some bias, it would be a fairly easy choice.

    Speaking only on my own behalf, of course,
    Derek Kerton

    Principal Analyst, The Kerton Group
    Chairman, Telecom Council of Silicon Valley
    Cornell MBA 97
    Waterloo BA Econ, Spanish 93
    Techdirt - Telecom Writer
    RCR Wireless - Analyst / Writer
    Global UMTS TDD Alliance - former Director
    Aegis Mobility - Board of Advisors (to these inventors)
    Mingleverse - Board of Advisors (to these inventors)
    Sitenta - Board of Advisors (to these innovators)
    Envio - Board of Advisors (for this startup)
    Telefonica (Spain) - US Innovation Scout (contract)

     

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  13.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    Mike

    There are two claims that you always lump together when you mention the Exaflood:

    1) That it is coming
    2) that it will bring Internet traffic to a crawl.

    I agree that #2 is in doubt, but #1 doesn't seem so far-fetched.

    When I look up the notion of an Exabyte, all I learn is that it is a big unit needed to measure the massive growth in Internet traffic that will occur in the medium term. This seems reasonable.

    We are getting faster networks, faster connections (not rapidly enough!), and we are using the Internet for more and more. Cloud computing, TV over Internet, telepresence, HD Voice, P2P video calling, P2P file sharing, iPads, more people joining online, faster mobile devices, the incredible adoption rate of smartphones...all the above are definitely having an impact.

    Look, even the data you link to with the text "traffic growth is actually quite reasonable"...

    http://www.dtc.umn.edu/mints/news/news_22.html

    ...actually says the global average growth rate of wireline Internet traffic is 40-50%, and says, verbatim, "Wireless data continues to grow explosively." That doesn't fit with the "quite reasonable" text you put on the hyperlink. In fact, 40% or more per annum is phenomenal growth.

    So why is the mere mention of "Exaflood" wrong? An exabyte is defined here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exabytes

    And if the people who build networks don't add capacity, data traffic might handily exceed capacity.

    Seems to me to be likely that exabytes of unprecedented data traffic is coming. The issue is how we handle it, as consumers, as ISPs, and as government policy. Solutions are needed.

    Isn't being in "exaflood denial" just giving the ISPs a good excuse to do nothing to prepare, and then they can say, "Well, Masnick said it was a farce."

     

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  14.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Re: But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    Isn't being in "exaflood denial" just giving the ISPs a good excuse to do nothing to prepare, and then they can say, "Well, Masnick said it was a farce."

    Um. I didn't write the post.

    But, more to the point, the data shows that the pace of growth in data is slowing. Yes, it's still growing, but the rate of growth is decreasing.

    Also, the post quite clearly said that ISPs still need invest in regular infrastructure upgrades, not "do nothing."

    So I'm not really sure what you're arguing here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Karl Bode (profile), May 4th, 2010 @ 3:01pm

    Re: But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    Derek. I think you miss the point that the very term Exaflood was coined by an individual with a vested interest in scare mongering for the sake of telecom policy influence.

    There's no doubt that data consumption is growing, though again, if you examine the work of MINTs and Andrew Odlyzko -- it's growing at a rate that is actually SLOWING -- and at a rate that's entirely manageable with just reasonable network investment (that's Odlyzko's conclusion). That's a far cry from the kind of chicken little nonsense hired guns like Swanson (or Nemertes Research, who we've discussed here) are pushing on behalf of their clients.

    "Isn't being in "exaflood denial" just giving the ISPs a good excuse to do nothing to prepare, and then they can say, "Well, Masnick said it was a farce."

    Masnick (who can obviously speak for himself) isn't the only one saying it's a farce. I've written about this industry for a decade and can absolutely say it's a farce. Much smarter men then myself who spend their life analyzing traffic patterns also say it's a farce.

    "And if the people who build networks don't add capacity, data traffic might handily exceed capacity. Seems to me to be likely that exabytes of unprecedented data traffic is coming. The issue is how we handle it, as consumers, as ISPs, and as government policy. Solutions are needed."

    It seems to me that the need for natural network evolution in the face of demand is an obvious reality, and unrelated to the use of fear mongering in telecom lobbying circles.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 2:13am

    Re: Re: But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    "Um. I didn't write the post."

    F@#$. I made the mistake for which I criticize others.

    I'm arguing that in general, you (and obviously Karl) treat any mention of the exaflood as if it's lobbyist fiction. It's not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 2:35am

    Re: Re: But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    Well, I agree for sure that the guy who coined the phrase had a very vested interest. And the Chicken Little stuff is BS.

    But the very research you cite indicates very rapid growth. And you point to it like it suggests the contrary. The Mints website http://www.dtc.umn.edu/mints/news/news_22.html
    doesn't mince words. The tone of that page is actually awed by the fast rate of growth, not that it "doesn't actually exist" or that it is "actually quite reasonable" as you wrote. They use words like: "still vigorous", "trending towards an increase", "The big unknown is whether such rates can indeed be maintained for long." And then they cite a bunch of research from Verizon, Chetan Sharma, and Cisco where they use the term, "grow explosively".

    You mention that the growth slowed. The fact that the growth slowed from 50-60% per year up to 2008 to 40-50% for 2009 seems to me to be a small change in the rate of growth, but the growth is still phenomenal.

    And we should consider, too, that 2009 was home to a significant global recession. Of course the numbers would be down.

    I don't cotton to fear mongering by telecom lobbyists either, but it seems data traffic is growing remarkably. Why deny the use of a word like exaflood to describe it.

    And what you call "natural network evolution"...well, that may refer to new technology like CWDM, for sure, but it also implies significant capital investments for telecom companies. It's only "natural network evolution" when someone else is doing the lifting.

    We don't have a good broadband policy in the US, and we don't have enough competition, and the telcos will always lobby for a better set of laws that unfairly favors them. But that doesn't mean they are wrong when they say handling an exaflood of data will require significant capital.

     

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  18.  
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    Karl Bode (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 7:17am

    Re: Re: Re: But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    "I don't cotton to fear mongering by telecom lobbyists either, but it seems data traffic is growing remarkably. Why deny the use of a word like exaflood to describe it."

    Again, because the very term Exaflood was constructed by a carrier policy vessel to infer UNMANAGEABLE growth as an effort to use fear to shape policy. Why SHOULD we use a completely unscientific term coined by a faux-scientist designed to mislead the public?

    "The tone of that page is actually awed by the fast rate of growth..."

    Also again, there is "fast" growth (expected), and there is apocalyptic, unmanageable growth (The Exaflood). And Odlyzko's writings (available extensively all over the web) trend toward the lower end of the projected growth and by and large downplay growth hysteria.

    "We don't have a good broadband policy in the US, and we don't have enough competition, and the telcos will always lobby for a better set of laws that unfairly favors them. But that doesn't mean they are wrong when they say handling an exaflood of data will require significant capital."

    The idea that networks need investment has never been in dispute.

     

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  19.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 5th, 2010 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: But What About The Exaflood is Fake?

    Well, I guess I'll go along with you that the word "exaflood" has been tainted by its original source and loaded use.

    However, if it were coined by Vint Cerf to enthusiastically describe how awesome it is that everyone is getting online and connecting more, then we'd all be holding hands here and praising the exaflood.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    PopeRatzo (profile), May 14th, 2010 @ 3:39pm

    Do evangelicals HAVE to be d-bags?

    I'm wondering about the part where the "exacloud" is going to "do away with powerful personal computers" as if the only reason I would own a computer is to surf the web.

    And the web can't "steal my privacy" as long as I don't give it any real information ("Pope Ratzo" isn't my real name, by the way).

    I love how the corporatists are now using evangelicals as their shock troops, as if "God hates regulation!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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