Let us now praise wealthy men.
Well, one wealthy man. Specifically, Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun. (And about the wealth crack, Jonathan. If you buy the drinks when we meet you're wealthy in my book.)
He's right. The Network is the Computer. Google proves it. Salesforce.Com proves it. Sun has been saying it for years, and we believe it because it is true.
Trouble is, that great supercomputer Sun is about to turn on is just the CPU, just as Google's server farm is just a CPU. And a computer, any computer, is not just a CPU.
The link between a user and a networked computer is its input-output rate. This is the bottleneck to all other progress. There are ways in which we can try and get around this -- by storing data centrally -- but your input-output speed defines your ability to query the central store and get answers from it.
When Jonathan Schwartz is sitting at his desk, or at any desk within the Sun empire, he gets great connections. Sun's internal network works very, very fast. Maybe he can connect that way from home, I don't know.
But if he came to my house, and probably to yours, it would not be so nifty. What the Bells and cable companies are willing to sell as "broadband" is, compared to what's available elsewhere, pathetic. On the other hand, according to The Diffusion Group, Asia will have some 40 million Fiber to the Home customers in four years. Quoting from their release:
"Yes, this may sound crazy to European or North American operators offering 1-10 Mbps," says (analyst Frank) Marum. "However, many Asian operators are concerned that emerging usage models will require between 60-80 Mbps of consistent throughput. When you start to pipe a wide variety of bandwidth-intensive, two-way services over a broadband connection, the head room of a 30 Mbps connection can vaporize quickly."
What does this mean? It means these customers will have a "better" Sun Grid than I do. While U.S. companies hoard bandwidth in favor of cable TV or obsolete voice applications, Sun Wen in Beijing will be in the fast lane, slurping that power down as fast as thought.
The Network is the Computer. Which means all of us need to start taking the condition of the network -- and the bottlenecks which prevent its improvement -- seriously.