Josh Work Professional Organizations Trip Reports Conference Report: 2000 LISA: Broadband Changes Everything

Brent Chapman of Great Circle Associates spoke about how broadband — which includes the variants of DSL, cable modems, and possibly even wireless — changes the way people perceive the Internet.

Broadband has two major features: it's high speed and always on. DSL provides speeds on the order of 144 kbps (or more than 7 MBps). Cable modems share the same big pipe, but provides similar high speeds. In comparison, even the fastest phone-modems provide no more than 53 Kbps. By always on, Brent means that there's no longer any dial-up delay and no busy signals. This makes the Internet just like electricity or water: You flip a switch or turn a knob and it's just there. This will change how people perceive and use the Internet in the long run; rather than saying "I'll go online later and do that" they're much more likely to hop on and off the net for brief visits to accomplish tasks as they come up as opposed to waiting until later. (Note that most consumer electronics today, such as stereos, televisions, and microwaves, don't actually power themselves completely off. They remain in a reduced-power "stand-by" mode so they can appear to power up more quickly when needed.)

Broadband is also cheaper than traditional leased lines. A T1 line from a telecommunications provider (telco) used to run $1,500 a month. Comparable speeds via DSL are on the order of $300 a month.

The revolution in providing broadband leads to new capabilities, such as connecting small offices or home offices to the Internet at high speeds, as well as making telecommuting more effective for virtually everyone. It also leads to new services or more efficient older services, such as:

Unfortunately, broadband also leads to new security threats. "Always on" means "always vulnerable." You can no longer assume that you can only be hit by attacks when you're on line in front of the computer when the Internet link is always up. Cable modem lines are shared within a neighborhood, so "Network Neighborhood" takes on a whole new meaning. If you have shared your disk or printer within your own home, you're also sharing them with the entire cable neighborhood. We should expect to see new hardware and software firewalls built into broadband DSL in the near future.

Broadband also allows you to save money. Many homes have more than 2 computers, so networking them within the home to share a single big pipe for bandwidth makes more sense to more users now. This means that you could cancel your second phone line (saving about $15/month) as well as multiple ISP accounts (saving $20/month).

What's coming in the future of broadband? Brent expects that virtual ISPs (for sales and marketing features), affinity ISPs (like credit cards), subsidation and cross-marketing will happen in the near term. We'll also see voice over DSL and voice over cable (some areas already have one or both of these); the problem faced by the providers here is "five 9s reliability," or less than 5 minutes of downtime — scheduled or unscheduled — per calendar year. We'll see more network appliances (like WebTV and Tivo) and radio— and broadband-ready MP3 receivers. We'll also see Internet-enabled appliances, such as the refrigerator with a touchscreen for restocking linked to a grocery delivery service such as Peapod or WebVan.

There are several IT management issues with broadband. First among these is security: should employees' homes be inside or outside the corporate firewall? If they're inside, who other than the employee has access to the company network? If they're outside, how does the employee get inside for work? Should the corporate Internet access be shared with the homes? If so, we need to have some kind of firewall protection (but then who maintains and monitors those firewalls); if not, the cost to the company will skyrocket since every home user needs to have their own bandwidth. What carriers are available to the employee? How do you connect to them? Are they secure? Are they reliable? Do they perform well? DO you use a single or multiple carriers? If multiple, how do you deal with coordination? Who supports the home system? Who supplies the home system? Who supplies parts for it? What operating systems, releases, applications, and versions are supported? Who can call the help desk? Who uses the systems and the network? How can you provide mutually secure access, such as when an employee's spouse works for the competition? Is a VPN the right solution? If so, is it PC-based (which leads to driver issues) or router-based (which doesn't address the other-people issue)? Are personal firewalls the answer? Those also lead to issues of who provides, configures, reconfigures, manages, and updates them, and ignores the multiple-connection issue.

In the question and answer section, Brent noted that distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) will increase. Host-based security has to come back into style, since firewalls are no longer enough protection. The Cheswick/Bellovin model of a crunchy exterior and creamy interior no longer applies. Satellite broadband is unlikely because of the huge latency involved. Broadband affects the core routers. When asked what it'll take to administer the high-bandwidth providers (such as Akamai), Brent noted that there's no good answer yet but we certainly need to work on it. As an example, Akami has 600 servers and is moving towards 600,000 servers. Broadband also leads to more peer-to-peer networking, so the traditional source-and-sink model may need to be redefined.

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Last update Jul16/05 by Josh Simon (<>).