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DACS General October 7, 1997

Program Review : John Patrick – The Now & Future Internet

IBM’s Net guru talks of universally connected world

By Wally David

I HAVE NOTHING but great things to say about John Patrick’s presentation at the last General Meeting. John, IBM’s vice president of Internet technology, is a truly professional speaker. Before his visit to DACS last year, I was told by DACS board member Jeff Setaro and others that John was a treat to hear. And he was. I came away from that meeting impressed with what John had to say, and delighted with the style and class with which he said it.
As this year’s visit neared, I was the one who sang John’s praises to anyone who would listen, to anyone even remotely interested in computers. I told them all that they would not be disappointed. And I don’t think they were. All those who attended the October 7 general meeting had to enjoy John’s presentation.
To say that John Patrick is an Internet evangelist would not be an exaggeration. On this night, he shared with us his view of what he called a “universally connected world.” The elements that will lead us to this place were the key topics of John’s presentation.
One such element is the “natural evolution of a new medium.” John’s view is that the Internet really isn’t a network anymore. It’s a new medium. If you strip away the layers and look at the infrastructure of the Internet, it is a basic telephone circuit, a series of specialized computers called routers that shoot packets of data back and forth from computer to computer. Overlaying this is that rich world of applications and media content we users find so interesting and useful.
The infrastructure, which intrigued us a few years ago, really doesn’t matter anymore. We don’t really need to know anything about it. John related it to our televisions. Most of us don’t know what the inside of our sets looks like or how it works. And we really don’t care as long as it works. John sees the Internet the same way. In the future, it will be the medium through which we receive everything – faxes, E-mail, telephone conversations, television programming, radio programming, Web pages, shopping. All of our interactions outside of work and family will come via a big pipe connected to our offices and homes.
This will transform our communication infrastructure into a “global local area network” (LAN), which differs from our traditional LANs in the number of PCs connected to the network. A LAN may have five, ten, 100, or hundreds of computers linked together. But the Internet has millions, connected, all over the world, making it a truly global local area network.
This global LAN has an incredible “reach and compatibility making everyone a user.” It no longer matters what platform or operating system you use – Windows, OS2, Mac, or UNIX. If you can launch a Web browser, you can use the Internet and view the same content as everyone else. It makes no difference what application was used to create a document anymore. If it is on the Web, anyone can read it.
Another way in which our world will be universally connected is by having “Internet addresses everywhere.” By that, John does not mean e-mail addresses. He means things like your dishwasher and your car. Everything will be networked. Your humble laundry slave, for example, will be able to send a message to the nearest repair depot that will tell the service manager the unit needs to be repaired and, by the way, needs a new pump motor because the old one is broken. In the same way, your car will e-mail you when it is time for an oil change.
In John’s capacity as vice president of Internet technology at IBM, he travels the world, espousing the benefits of commerce on the Internet. He calls it e-business. The three major things that e-business brings us are Content, Commerce, and Collaboration. It brings us Content in the form of information and research. UPS, FedEx, Airborne, and DHL, for example, all have strong Web presence and sites that provide much more than advertising information and fluff. You can easily bring up the FedEx page and schedule a package pick-up or check on the status of a shipment as it crosses the country.
Examples of commerce on the Internet abound. Amazon.com, the on-line bookstore, is an unqualified success. On-line banking, auctions, and stock trading are other ways commerce is taking place on the Internet.
Finally, and maybe most useful, is Collaboration. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a site, as do police departments, high schools, libraries, and every other organization imaginable. Information that used to takes days or even weeks to reach the public is now accessible within minutes of its being posted on the Internet.
I wish I could tell you everything John had to day, but space constraints in this paper prevail. So I urge you to explore the wonders of the Internet on your own. You might start by visiting John’s own Web site at johnpatrick.com. The site is incredibly creative and rich in content and contains not only the downloadable text of most of his speeches, but examples of some of IBM’s emerging technologies as well. Would you expect anything less from a weekday visionary who is also a weekend Webmaster who spends most of his free time updating his pages of links. Hardly! Just as I was not disappointed the first time I heard John speak, you won’t be disappointed when you visit his Website.
I look forward to John’s visit next year. I hope to see you there as well.
A member of the DACS Board of Directors, WALLY DAVID is also a member of the dacs.doc editorial committee. He is the Network Administrator for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a nonprofit trade association for the gun industry. Wally can be reached via e-mail at [email][email protected][/email].