Saturday, May 2, 2009

David Koch, Mel Doyle, Pete Blasina and the intertubes are full

(Above: expert on de-clogging the S bend in the intertubes, Pete Blasina)

(Above: screen cap of pete's gadgets, a segment on Network 7's morning Sunrise show. Go here if you want the full unbridled bundle of laughs as the intertubes crisis is explained in incredible scientific and technical detail. On the left is Mel Doyle and on the right David Koch).

Every so often, it becomes the painful, alarming, terrifying duty of this site to announce the impending end of western civilization as we know it.

You might think I'm talking about the swine fever gripping the world, or the GFC fever, or any number of other fevers, but as Dustin Hoffman says in Wag the Dog, that's nothing.

Here's what we're facing. Now people, nation, world, stay calm, but the bad news is THE INTERTUBES ARE ALMOST FULL.

Sorry for shouting like that, but this is crisis time. Chicken Little had nothing on this kind of news. Aliens? Meh. It's the tubes that are the worry. They're filling up.

Now you might think I'm joking, you might think this is just an old internet myth recycled yet again. But take a look at the snap above, and read what it says!!

Stay calm. No panic. But let's dig into the depths and see what terrible trouble we're facing:

Digger cobber Kochie mate: Could the internet run out of space? I don't know much how this internet business works but er I thought it just went through the air. US scientists are warning the popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube is putting a major strain on cyberspace, and they say by 2012 it could get full and become an unreliable toy.

An unreliable toy? Oh no, say it ain't so, somebody's going to break my rubber duckie. Ernie!!

Blonde in red given the chore of asking dumb questions: So what does all that mean? And what exactly will this impact ...  how will it impact your internet use, and what's being done to stop it from happening. Let's ask our gadget guy Pete Blasina, good morning to you.

Pete: Good morning.

Blonde in red: Can it ... the internet, I suppose this is something you kinda can't put into concrete but can the internet run out of space?

Pete: Oh definitely I'm surprised it hasn't happened earlier. It's been remarkable. The internet is about five thousand days old, about 13 years old and it hasn't broken down once in that time, so it's probably the most perfect machine we've built as humans. The thing is that when we built it, it was never meant to cope with what's happening now, and it was never meant to grow as rapidly as it has, and with video down there, going down the internet and so much entertainment, social networking, it's just at capacity, virtually at capacity now.

Kochie mate: Alright 'cause it's called cyber space, so we think it just appears out of the air, but is it right to say it comes through these big pipes, either through satellite or the ground, and just the pipes aren't big enough anymore? Is that ... does that explain it?

Pete: well actually no it doesn't the pipes are fine, um so imagine if you like, we built the infrastructure, we put the plumbing in place, which was optic fibre, optic fibre is infinitely extensible, it's the switches you put at either end that are the critical thing. The issue is that all the information has to be resident somewhere, and there's millions upon millions of computer servers around the world, storing all this information, and the switches that transmit that down the fibre connections, so we have a fibre connection which runs through the Philippines and Hawaii into America, and there's massive server farms, of well computer farms, where all this information is resident, and that's where the clog happens, and we're reaching ...

Kochie digger cobber mate: so it's like an S-bend if you like.

Pete: exactly, 

Dumb blonde: you can't just get more computers or bigger computers?

Pete: no, it's got nothing to do with the computer at your end, and in fact the government's fibre network to the home is a solution because that offers information down, and it's not just a huge amount of information down, Kochie used the pipe analogy, and that's what broadband is, a really fat pipe that delivers huge amounts of information very quickly, but it's not just the consumer, us, it's business, you know all the banks rely on it, hospitals, education, in the future is all going to be built on this, so building the infrastructure first of all, the connectivity, and then improving the back end is the critical element, so we need a huge investment to make that happen.

Blonde asking the dumb questions: so if we don't, what happens, what happens when it gets full. Does everything just crash?

Pete: It's a great question. It won't crash, but it's equivalent to an electrical brownout so you'll
just, speed will go down, access, you mightn't be able to access it for a couple of hours a day, and you can't run a business on that, so there's going to be all sorts of problems down the track.

Kochie digger mate (speaking slowly): so it gets slower ...

Pete: yeah exactly

Digger mate Kochie: ... so you're saying a lot of money's being spent, our government's gunna spend it on the pipes getting into our home, broadband, which will help that bit, but what about the S-bend, who spends the money there to unclog it?

Ah, finally the solution. The clogged S-bend! Don't panic people. Look under your desk. You will see a pipe, which contains the intertubes. Follow it outside and see where it goes. At some point, you will discover an S bend. Take out your electronic eel, and ram it down the tube very hard, shaking it about (sometimes flushing it with water from a hose helps). Don't have an electronic eel, still using an old plumber's electric eel? No worries, we have an exclusive brand available from this site. 

Pete: we are putting, uh we, there are companies, for example, Cisco are putting switches in place, they're improving them virtually every six months to make it operate faster to get over this, but we've we're almost now at the point where we need to go back down to the foundation and re-build the infrastructure from the ground up. 

Blonde with dumb questions: quick question then what about sites like YouTube that take up more room.

Pete: well YouTube in one month transmits more data than the whole internet in 2000, so ...

Blonde: wow

Pete: ... it's massive, it's absolutely massive, and they have huge farms, the same with Google  

Digger mate Kochie: well we have a hundred million people tune in to Susan Boyle

Pete: exactly 

Kochie digger mate: ... it's like a traffic jam on the internet.

Pete: absolutely. It's enormous, in three weeks a hundred million people viewed that videoclip. That's an amazing amount of data being transferred but it still works and that's why we're getting to the point in 2012 where it just may start to slow down completely and not work fast enough to get video. 

Kochie digger sanctimonious mate: just shows how reliable it has been and how much we take it for granted as a part of our life. Thanks Pete.

Sorry for any transcription errors, but I was chortling so much I found it hard to juggle my anxiety attack at the intertubes being full and giving due weight to our morning experts.

Of course what they didn't go into here is what looks like a concerted attack on net neutrality in Australia, orchestrated by the likes of Telstra, Optus Singtel and Cisco, aimed at privileging certain sites over others - at a cost of course. And great profits to them. That's what's really behind these babbling brooks and their dire warnings about the tubes being full and Cisco doing great things to solve the S-bend clog.

This sounds like a cash grab is going to be part of the lobbying process going down with the Ruddstra NBN, and follows on from the movement in America to privatize the internet. Of course our Morning Show clowns aren't worried by any of this, which will see cash flow from ordinary consumers to the major backbone providers, while all our compere clowns can do is gabble on about is the intertubes being full, way less amusing than Chicken Little impressions of the sky falling in.

Well Pete sometime you might care to go on Sunrise on 7 and explain the devious behavior of our major players, especially as your network is doing the dance with Yahoo, second biggest internet company in the world after Google - and big customers of Cisco, and thereby able to make money out of scare stories about the intertubes being full and needing to charge customers a little more.

Sadly Peter Blasina clearly doesn't have a clue about the differences between net neutrality and internet addressing (IPv6), thus the whole thing comes out as a bunch of meaningless drivel of the kind poor old Ted Stevens  got shot down in flames over, when he announced to the world that the internets was a series of tubes.

If you want to follow up on the issue of net neutrality, take a look at Wikipedia's entry under Series of tubes, which provides a lot of links to other areas, and to dolts who talk about the intertubes being clogged.

Oh noes! The intertubes is full! I can haz bandwidth?


Rocky said...

I love this - but then I'm always a sucker for a LOLcat, and I loved it when Senator Ted made his famous faux pas.

The funny thing missing from this story (apart from the confusion of things like bandwidth, switching capacity and server farms) is that there are already solutions to allow companies to make some online content easier to access, without breaching the principle of Net Neutrality. Companies such as Akamai and Limelight Networks support major online publishers such as Hulu, Fairfax and BigPond - in fact BigPond just did a deal with Akamai to stream video over the Akamai network because Telstra's own network is managed so badly.

So there is no crisis. The Intertubes are not full. We don't need to challenge Network Neutrality. Companies that want to ensure their video plays well pay a fee to Akamai.

As you suggest, there's some concern that with the plethora of Internet-enabled devices like iPhones, traffic lights, cars and even fridges we will run out of IP addresses, but IPv6 will take care of all that. It's got nothing to do with an S-bend.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so I know this article is a year old, but have you still got the original video? Channel 7 had it on their website but was quietly switched, and there's nothing on YouTube about it. I'd love to watch the video again and get some good lulz out of it. And I loved Mel's description of "Dumb blonde". Clasic!

dorothy parker said...

Sorry, guess they had to take it down to create some room on the full to overflowing intertubes, and I didn't make a copy.

I guess that's another bit of amazing science lost to the world ...