This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Clint Heiden, Chief Commercial Officer of EdgeConneX
2016…a new year full of limitless potential; but as we look onward in preparation for what’s to come, it’s also critical to take a look at where we’ve come from and gain some perspective. Though the Internet of Things (IoT) is among the most widely-used terms in the industry today, if we apply the principle to an earlier Internet period, we see a much different picture. I’d be curious to know if anyone was bold enough in 1970 to predict the astounding growth of ‘Things’ – from 2 to 75 billion.
Today, IoT is a term used to describe billions of connected devices. Think back to the early ‘70s and what IoT was at that time, there were not billions of things making up the whole of IoT, but rather only two – Thing One and Thing Two, as Dr. Seuss would say. These two hosts were working from two points, supported by a network architecture designed with only them in mind.
The Internet was born on October 29, 1969 at half past 10 o’clock to proud parent, U.S. Department of Defense. Aptly named ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), this new technology sparked a revolutionary platform for remote connectivity unlike any other form of communication previously in existence. The following decade would prove to be one of innovation and development, as ARPANET grew beyond its infancy stages into a technology full of potential known as the Internet. Though the Internet’s predecessor was created in 1969, the term “Internet of Things,” coined by Executive Director of the Auto-ID Center, Kevin Ashton, was not conceived until 30 years later in 1999.
Fast forwarding to present day, we’ve gone from Thing One and Thing Two to more than two billion people with five billion connected devices worldwide. By 2020, experts predict the number of connected devices to exceed 75 billion – that’s more than 10 times the global population. But this prediction depends on the evolution of the network infrastructure, more specifically, the architecture at the edge and its ability to keep pace. The proliferation of devices, users and connected things on the network has forever changed the network core as we knew it. Everything is an Edge now, even the former core. Much like the Internet is a collection of networks working together, IoT can only be realized if data is stored in facilities that are a collection of something greater. While we’ve come a long way from the days of four Network Access Points (NAPs), current long-haul network infrastructure built in the late 1990s and early 2000s still needs to be redistributed to ensure greater connectivity to regional infrastructure points currently in development. This also applies to data centers and peering models.
A key driver of this network evolution is that connected things are changing the way we use the Internet and what we use it for. When it comes to needing content delivered with low latency, it’s no longer just about Facebook, Netflix and my nine-year-old’s Minecraft; it’s now also about banking, collaboration and even the ability to transfer digital healthcare images to save a patient’s life. We’ve all become so dependent on digital information that it now touches every part of our lives.
The next generation of Internet users is looking for secure and instant connectivity – at a cost-effective price. As I mentioned earlier, network architecture built for Thing One and Thing Two was never imagined to be necessary to support thing 75 billion. In order to meet and support these new demands, we need to expand the network edge, bringing content closer to end-users faster than ever before. This means that Internet hubs such as Ashburn will no longer serve peripheral markets like Pittsburgh, Nashville and Memphis. They will live on as part of an ever-growing edge and serve their own local base of end-users. Massive data centers will not go away, but what we put in them will change – and the change is happening as we speak.
By expanding the edge of the network through purpose-built, power dense colocation and wireless solutions, we as an industry can enable fast and reliable content delivery to end-users. As it begins its inevitable takeover, preparation for the goliath that is IoT is absolutely vital to satisfy the demands of Internet users worldwide – both consumer and enterprise based-users.
From its humble beginnings, to becoming an indispensable platform for transmission of vital information, the Internet is once again entering a new phase with the emergence of IoT. Soon, we will replace the network core with the Internet of Everywhere, because the Internet is not finished growing – it’s just getting started…even my dog is now a ‘thing’ on the Internet.