Bandwidth for Christmas?!?!

By - January 6, 2016

Christmas of 1998, I was eighteen years old, I opened what I still consider to be one of my favorite presents. My US Robotics V.90 56.6K modem.  It was the fastest thing EVER, it was the fastest thing in the WORLD.  Also, it was seriously expensive at the time.  I was positive it was the fastest we would ever be able to get at home, after all, wasn’t 56.6K the limit of a POTS line?  That’s, Plain Old Telephone Service, for you non-technical folks. T1’s were still like a gazillion dollars then!  “Fiber Optic” was still how the U.S.S Enterprise powered its Warp Core.  I even proselytized about it to my family and friends.  A fact, unfortunately, that they remember to this day.  The story of me attempting to explain modulation and demodulation to my eighty year old grandmother, is still told every year, I will not outlive it, and I am at peace with that.  She was actually the one who got it for me, thanks again Grandma, you are still the best.

POOF! It is now 2016!

Today we use 56.6K modems for emergency VPN access, and fire alarms, occasionally you run in to a gas station still using dial-up processing for their credit card transactions. Undoubtedly so they can stare at you awkwardly while you both listen to that wonderful classic tune, “That Ol’ Dial-Up Modem Sound”.  Most of the 56.6K’s are in a landfill somewhere no doubt.  We matured slowly at first, T1 became the norm for Enterprises and Universities all across the nation, then we got DSL, and finally the magical wonder of coaxial delivered internet that most of us now enjoy.  However in the last few years there has been an explosion of available bandwidth, fiber all over the country that laid dark for years being lit up, strands originally run as backup lines, for redundancy, are now carrying traffic constantly.  The cost of bandwidth has plummeted as well.  Merry Christmas indeed!

How has this effected the business environment? How has it affected IT administration, and planning?  The easier question is how it has not.  That being said, I am going to focus on my most recent example, which also lead me to write this blog.

Recently while doing an Office 365 Migration project, I was discussing mailbox migrations with the client’s IT director. We were trying to get an estimate on how long the mailbox migrations would take, an attendant at the meeting asked, “Do we have any bandwidth concerns?”  The Director of IT spoke up and said, “No way, we have 75mb/s pipe.”  In a millisecond I responded “That is faster than the Exchange Server can move them.”  Only later did it dawn on me how significant that really was.  Our bottlenecks now are not on the WAN, they are internal, and depend upon the amount of resources we dedicate to them, and the limitations of the application.  Why is that so important?  It gives an IT organization freedom, and control over their design.

Think of things we now do over the WAN that even five years ago would be unheard of. Terabytes of SAN replication traffic?  No Sweat!  You want to publish VDI to the internet with a high level of security?  No Problem!  You need to globally load balance web servers for better service to customers around the globe? Easy Peasy!  Oh yeah, and there is no way any of us would have the patience that a “Facebook” would require.  Remember when you still had to wait for a web page to load?  I doubt you would wait five minutes to see the latest “LOLCats” picture your cousin posted.  Or that she would take the three hours required to upload it in the first place.

This Holiday Season, when you are giving thanks for all the things in your life. Don’t leave out your cheap, fast, and reliable internet.  Try to think about the ten people still hearing “You’ve got mail”, on their dial up AOL, and remember how fortunate you are!

P.S. I am fully aware of how the Enterprise powered its Warp Core, so please don’t comment about that, if you happen to be one of those people who argues about Sci-Fi series on the internet.

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