The Ultimate Internet

Network World asked me to write an 850 word summary of my view about the future of the Internet. The story appears in the November 10 issue of the magazine and also online at NetworkWorldFusion. They named the story "The Ultimate Internet". I don’t know if "ultimate" is the right term, and 850 words isn’t much space to describe something as broad and deep as the evolution of the Internet, but I did my best. There were some other things in the news and a few thoughts I wanted to share.

Desktop Linux

There is a lot going on with desktop Linux. The Associated Press reported today in an article called “Brazil Leans Away From Microsoft” that Brazil has decided to encourage all sectors of their government to move toward open-source programs. They believe that the low cost of Linux and open-source applications can enable them to close the digital divide in Brazil — a country of 170 million people where only ten percent have computers at home. The motoviations vary from country to country but the trend to use Linux is clearly building.
Earlier this month, Novell acquired the SuSE Linux, and has now made it clear that it intends to be become a major player in the Linux market. Amy Wohl wrote quite a bit about it in her Amy Wohl’s Opinions. In her article, Amy reported that the CEO of Novell believes that "Linux is the future of computing". That kind of vision, plus the portfolio of Linux technology they now own, plus the $50 million investment from IBM, adds up to a very strong position. Amy says, "One thing is sure. With Novell’s purchase of SuSE, the Linux market is now definitely out of the niche and into the mainstream".
My own conversion to the Linux desktop is progressing. I have VMWare running on Redhat Linux with Windows XP as a separate application. This allows me to switch back and forth between Linux and Windows without having to re-boot and if I need to re-boot windows (which happens very frequently) I can do so without actually re-booting the ThinkPad. Linux and VMWare continue to run independently.


There has been a lot of feedback on the patrickWeb story about ENUM. Most people agree that will be one of the important elements in the merger of the PSTN and the Internet. Thanks to Mike Nelson for sending me a link to an excellent paper on ENUM called "Lord of the Numbers" by Geoff Huston.


IBM is a believer in IP telephony and plans to convert most of its more than 300,000 employees to voice over IP over the next four to five years. With nearly one thousand PBXs in more than 100 countries, the conversion is a big job. The benefits will include cost reduction but also enable integration of applications with voice. IBM’s IP telephony platform will run on Linux servers.

The ultimate Internet

The ultimate Internet

November 10, 2003

John Patrick, well-respected Internet go-to guy, shares his big-picture look on the shape of business to come and the future of the ‘Net.

By John Patrick, Network World
November 10, 2003 12:14 AM ET

Network World – After decades of growth, we are now about 5% of the way into what the Internet has in store for our business and personal lives. Soon, 1 billion people will be using the ‘Net, empowering themselves to get what they want, when they want it, from wherever they are. Expectations for on-demand e-business are expanding by the day.

An on-demand e-business has integrated all its processes so that it presents one face to the customer. Buy it online and return it to the store. Buy it at the store, return it via an online request and then ship to a centralized location.

On-demand e-businesses enable “click here” to initiate a service-call chat session or video window with an actual person. On-demand e-businesses do not have the words “fax this form.” They don’t pretend to be global businesses and then say to call a toll-free number “9 to 5 Central Standard Time.” On-demand e-businesses offer a people-oriented and user-friendly integrated experience for all parties involved – employees on the intranet, suppliers, customers, partners, analysts and prospective constituents.

On-demand e-businesses will not have achieved 24-7 by making everything redundant, but rather will have used autonomic computing capabilities to achieve the effect of redundancy. This effect of redundancy will come from virtualization of resources, and intelligent and automatic sharing of those resources. A fully integrated e-business will gain cost advantage by creating an on-demand operating environment that lets it expand capacity on the fly to meet unexpected needs of customers. Ultimately most on-demand e-businesses will become computing utilities or use one. Few, if any, truly on-demand e-businesses exist at this stage, but the early adopters are beginning to emerge.

E-businesses will be helped a great deal by the continued rapid evolution of the Internet. Each day we get closer to a new phase of the Internet that will make today’s version seem primitive. Not only will this next-generation Internet be orders of magnitude faster, but it also will be always on, everywhere, natural, intelligent, easy and trusted.

Fast and reliable connectivity finally is appearing, and the competition to provide it is beginning to heat up. Cable, telecom, satellite and the power grid are each threatening the other, and the result will be more speed, improved service and lower prices. More important than the speed is the always-on connection, which will increase propensities to use online services – and also increase expectations.

The effect of Wi-Fi is bigger than coffee shops and train stations. With Wi-Fi chips in handheld devices and the rapid adoption of voice over IP based on Session Initiation Protocol, the Internet becomes everywhere, and a voice conversation becomes just one of the many things you can do while connected. Long-distance will no longer mean anything. Wi-Fi soon will be as secure and as fast as today’s wired Ethernet. Advanced antenna and radio technologies will ensure ubiquity. With more people always on and having adequate bandwidth, information-oriented e-businesses will lead the charge for the re-emergence of the application service provider.

Web services are enabling a global-application Web, where any and all applications can be linked together seamlessly. Not only will you be able to use points to pay for hotel reservations online, but also to designate from a check box on that same hotel Web page the airline from whose frequent-flier program the points should be deducted.

It soon will be clear that Linux is not about “free.” It is about achieving scalability, reliability and security. The world will remain heterogeneous, but the underlying operating systems need to be open so that all can see how they work and contribute to them. The open source model also will mean more rapid innovation.

Security will no longer be the biggest issue – authentication will. The need is urgent. People have an unmanageable number of IDs and passwords. Digital certificates will let people, computers, handhelds and applications interact securely in a distributed Web of trust. With a redesign of e-mail protocols, we also will gain confidence and control over those with whom we communicate. Corporations will share knowledge internally and externally through syndicated Weblogs.

The potential of the Internet is much greater than meets the eye. As the Internet evolves, it will become so pervasive, reliable and transparent that we will take it for granted. It will be part of our lives and, more importantly, begin to simplify our lives.