Changing Usage Habits - The Netcentric World
The world is changing and changing at a very rapid pace. We are moving towards a world where just about anything and everything is online. There are more ways of getting online than ever before, you are no longer restricted to a desktop PC connected to a phone line with a cable. Hundreds of thousands, probably millions of households and businesses now have wireless routers. Every new laptop sold these days has built in wireless. There are wireless hotspots all over the country and around the world with potentially hundreds of thousands more thanks to services like FON. Mobile phones are increasingly seeing more Internet capabilities with built in WiFi, web browsers and video streaming like the forthcoming (to the UK) iPhone. And we aren't stopping there with the Internet ready devices. There's the obvious things like games consoles like the Wii, alarm clocks with streaming Internet radio rather than FM but have you come across the Internet fridge? LG also have an Internet enabled microwave, washing machine and air conditioner. With a mobile phone you can turn the air conditioning on before you get home or turn up the heat. Better on the environment than using a timer if you're someone that's always running late. You can go even further with home automation with something like X10 and control the lighting as well as heating, pet feeders (again if you're running late you can make sure the cat is fed from the office or a mobile), or even speak to people at the door over an intercom. Or how about an Internet enabled exercise bike that lets you race against a competitor and insult them using VoIP. You can also now get TVs with a built in Ethernet port. It's fairly easy to imagine where that kind of technology is headed. Ofcom have recently approved the use of Ultra Wideband (UWB) in the UK. UWB allows digital devices to connect to each other wirelessly other short distances (up to 30 metres) at speeds up to 2Gbps. Think of it a bit like Bluetooth, but you can connect pretty much any device you can think of to any other. So for example you might browse the photos stored on your camera using your TV or play the MP3s from your iPod on your stereo, only without having to connect them together with wires or sync them to each other. How about connecting up a Microsoft Surface? That's some of the technology covered off, but what about how and when people use their connections? Surveys suggest that people are spending more and more time online and also more and more time using mobile devices. When we look at a typical weekday, starting about 6am there's a slow increase in traffic, mainly HTTP, then around 8-10am there's an increase in mail, remote access applications (like VPN) and streaming. Traffic from people getting to work checking and sending mail and listening to online radio or working from home. Non interactive traffic starts to decrease as first we get to the end of the overnight period at 8am and then through the prioritisation on the network. In the afternoon we start to see a tail off in traffic from business customers as people start to go home and a pick up in residential interactive traffic. Residential non-interactive traffic decreases again as we get to peak time on Premier and Plus at 4pm and scheduled downloads pause. The evening will see a rise in rise browsing and gaming before starting to decrease around 10pm when the P2P and usenet will then start to increase. At midnight people will start the scheduled downloads again and the non-interactive traffic rises quickly as the interactive drops off even quicker. In the future we will likely see more remote access traffic during the day from people working from home, more scheduled downloads overnight and more streaming during the evening. YouTube accounts for roughly 10% of all traffic on the Internet, Joost is starting to appear on the radar recently around 1% of traffic in the USA. These are figures that have increased from nothing in very short periods of time. Are they fads? Or just the start of something even bigger? However things change being able to be to see how different sites and applications change is invaluable. Tracking the usage from week to week and month to month of the movers and shakers out their on the Internet can only help us in managing the network. What lies ahead in terms of applications and software and how has that changed? Traditionally most software applications are installed on to a computer and run locally from the harddrive and had very little Internet connectivity. You have web applications like email and software updates such as Windows and Apple updates or antivirus software, but now we're seeing more applications that make big uses of the online capabilities that an "always on" connection brings. Gaming is a big one that's changed over the last few years. The original Playstation, SNES and other older consoles had no or limited online gaming but the current generation all tout online gaming as a big part of the design. Increasingly we are also seeing more and more applications that are almost completely online and rather than develop an application for Windows or OS X they are being developed for the web browser. Ultimately you may see almost complete platform independence, where the OS is largely irrelevant because the application just runs in within a browser. Rather than running Word, Excel and Powerpoint locally you run them online, that also then means that you can access your applications from any Internet connection on any PC. As mentioned in last week's post Electronic Arts are calling for a standard, open platform for gaming. Let's for a minute assume that it happens and look forward 8 or 10 years and have think about a rough idea of what the PC of 2015 will look like. The PC will just be a box that sits out of site somewhere and does the local processing and will be connected via UWB to your TV and other screens around the house (each being able to have a different display) which does your gaming, web, email, TV recording, temperature control and everything else. It will also be connected to all the other devices around the house, be that in the kitchen, living room, mobile devices, digital picture frames or anything else. From there imagine you've forgotten to finish off that important presentation and all you've got with you is your iPhone. Not a problem, stop off at the nearest Starbucks and authorise the Microsoft Surface to display the iPhone's display and log on to Starbucks' wireless connection. Now I'm sure there's someone out there still reading this and wondering when I'm going to slip traffic management into the equation. Well I guess the answer is now. To make all of the above a reality people are going to want them to work. It's all well and good replacing Word with "online Word" but if at the convenience gain you lose performance and reliability people aren't going to switch. The ISP will need to ensure that they have the Quality of Service on their network to ensure that, their side at least, is problem free. As people become to be more reliant on online applications and as more and more devices have online functionality one of the key requirements of the ISP is to be a conduit to transfer the data between the customer and the source/destination and ensure that data gets there in an appropriate time. With more TV content coming online and as mentioned above TVs now available with an ethernet port it won't be long before this becomes standard and everyone is connecting their TV direct to the router. As we've mentioned previously right now we expect that most TV services will be delivered either via satellite or terrestrial (e.g. Freeview) both for "live" TV and record in advance (like Sky+) type services. Whilst broadband will mainly be for catch-up type services, at least initially, like the BBC iPlayer. You may well see a type of Quality of Service here too. Think for example of the TV catch-up like the Sky+ EPG only it goes back say 7 days as well as forwards. For every show you've missed you could have a "watch now" button and a "save to watch later". Watch now streams the video at a high priority on the ISP's network, the high priority ensuring that even if the network is busy there's no slow down or buffering. Whereas the save to watch later option downloads the show overnight at a lower priority. To watch an hour long episode of Top Gear at XViD quality, you would streaming at about 2Mbps for the whole hour. If it's downloading overnight it doesn't really matter how long it takes or at what speed so long as it gets done before you want to watch it. Much better for everyone that way. Where traffic management probably works best in these contexts is where people don't notice what it's doing, it just happens in the background and ensures that what you want to use just works. The Internet world is changing and the world around it is changing along with it. We can predict and forecast so much, but it's not always clear what else we'll see coming in the future and what will be popular. Two years ago would anyone have predicted that YouTube traffic would be 10% of all Internet traffic? Dave Tomlinson PlusNet Products Team
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