Are Stress Fractures Threatening the Internet?

Most of these are application level traffic that does little to optimize for bandwidth or location, and ISPs are paying the price. Their response has been “to throttle and filter traffic, particularly P2P traffic, with limited success.”

Access bandwidth is already hampering current applications and video streaming. It’s only likely to get worse as video streaming to the home takes off and becomes a major alternative to home media systems. Also, a rapidly growing dependence on cloud-based applications such as GoogleDocs and Amazon’s S3 are only going to exacerbate the situation, as more and more computation moves from the home PC to the cloud, “making the access bandwidth even more important as a potential bottleneck for all things Internet,” concludes Zhao.

Here is where the illusion that the Internet is fracturing comes in: as people see more private networks forming they believe it is an indication that the public network is overloaded.

“Large financial services firms, for example, where milliseconds of latency make a huge difference; these exchanges don’t want their customers’ billion dollar trades to get held up on the Internet by download requests for a new Coldplay song on iTunes or viewings of the latest viral video on YouTube, explains Ray Patalano, senior manager of Enterprise Solutions at Ciena.

“The need to maintain optimal, predictable, consistent high-quality network performance is essential in financial services, as well as other markets. That’s what private networks deliver and why businesses are building them instead of running those applications over the public Internet.”

Eventually, though, private networks are likely to fold back into the larger public network architecture.

“The growth of the ‘private’ IP networks to support enterprise customers is not an indication that the Internet architecture is broken or reached its limit,” said Verizon’s Elby. “Rather, it is recognition that the business models for enterprise and public Internet are quite dissimilar. With the emergence of consumer applications that require enterprise-like performance—HD video over the Internet, for example—we may find the private IP networks and public Internet converging in the future.”