Thursday, July 4, 2013

Air as a service

Have you ever wondered about air?  We all share the same air.  We know it's vitally important to us.  If we safeguard it we all benefit and if we pollute it we all suffer.  But we don't want to have to think about it every time we take a breath.  That's the beauty of air.  Elegantly simple and always there for you.

Imagine air as a service (AaaS), one where you need to specify the volume of air, the quality of the air, etc before you could have some to breathe.  As much as some folk might be delighted in the possibility to capitalize on that, it would not be the right consumption model for such a fundamental resource.  If we had to spend time and resources worrying about the air we breathe we'd have less time and resources to do other things like make dinner.

Why does air as it is work so well for us?  I think it's for these reasons, (1) there is enough of it to go around and (2) reasonable people (the majority) take measures to ensure that the air supply is not jeopardized.

Network bandwidth and transport should be more like how we want air to be.  The user of network bandwidth and transport (citizen) should not have to think about these elemental services of the network other than to be a conscientious user of this shared resource.  The operator of the network (government) should ensure that the network is robust enough to meet these needs of network users.  Furthermore the operator should protect network users from improper and unfair usage without making the lives of all network users difficult, or expecting users to know the inner workings of the network in order to use it.

The past is littered with the carcasses of attempts by network vendors and operators to force network-level APIs and other complexity on the network user.  Remember the ATM NIC?  Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it's failures and fail to benefit from it's successes.

What the average network user wants is to get the elemental services of the network without effort, like breathing air.  So don't make it complicated for the network user -- just make sure there's enough bandwidth to go around and get those packets to where they need to go.


  1. Folks in Beijing and Hong Kong do think about the Air Quality Index on a day to day basis. Hopefully that never become a universal standard; but your points on keeping unnecessary complexity away from the user is important. It's like going to a restaurant with a 5 page menu. It's just too daunting to know what to order, and then after I have selected the style of steak, the time it is cooked, and now I need to choose the sides and sauce?! This is just too much for a plebeian like myself. The same is true with networks. Why do I care about DSCP markings, scheduler weights, RSVP-TE EROs, and VXLAN vbridges? I just want my network to save/make me money on my real business.

  2. I'm pretty sure the folks in HK and SP wish they didn't have to worry about air quality. :)