In my first blog post I discussed the gap that exists between what consumers want and what the network can feasibly provide – what I referred to as the "agility gap." In just the four months since that post, we have seen a variety of new examples of the acceleration in technology advances for the consumer and end user, while the network chugs along trying to keep up.
The most intriguing of these was Sony's unveiling of PlayStation Now at CES 2015, a cloud-based gaming subscription service that gives players unlimited streaming access to more than 100 games.
Essentially, PlayStation has made an entire library of games available through a PlayStation Now app that can be accessed not only from the new PlayStation 4, but from a variety of Sony TVs, Blu-ray players, and other Internet-connected devices.
This added convenience is sure to attract new gamers to the PlayStation platform, and there's no doubt that it will feed the binge-watcher or binge-gamer's appetite.
But the extra burden placed on the network could be substantial. And because today's broadband connections generally can't provide the bandwidth needed to stream a full-HD gaming experience with zero latency, game graphics are generally sacrificed to make sure controls react to a user's input instantly – yet another perfect example of the Agility Gap. Imagine being able to take your broadband connection into "gaming mode" when you decided to sit down and play a game of Madden with your friend living on the West Coast.
This is just the latest example of a vendor eschewing hardware in favor of a cloud delivery platform, but it is illustrative of a trend that will become more and more common as the years roll on. In fact, recent Ciena-sponsored ACG Research found that household bandwidth requirements are, on average, set to increase 31% annually over the next five years, from 2.9 Mbps in 2014 to 7.3 Mbps in 2018 during peak hours (disclosure: I am an employee of Ciena). And with that increase in bandwidth comes higher expectations that the user experience is seamless and that the service in use "just works" regardless of the quality of the network required to deliver it.
The good news for us is that service providers are doing their part to get the network up to speed, so to speak, and are seeking to address consumer desires for more content delivered on demand. Take AT&T for example. The company has taken steps toward changing its model of network delivery by leveraging Software-Defined Networking (SDN). The company recently announced an on-demand service for enterprises to order, add, or change services on their own.
This is the dawn of the network, at last, beginning to "close the agility gap." It's the solution that, among other things, will enable the ability to match network consumption to evolving needs in real time. This aligns well with the enterprise shift to on-demand IT and cloud, and enterprises will increasingly seek the improvements in utility, flexibility, and economy that on-demand services provide. Both SDN and Network Functions Virtualization will power these services and deliver network function capability and connectivity and bandwidth variability.
So while the gap has formed, the steps are in place to ensure it closes. Eventually, as the network evolves and service providers change their delivery methods, the gap between what the consumer wants and what the network can deliver will simply fade away, and consumers will be able to binge watch House of Cards and play cloud-based PS3 games without a hitch. After all, it's what they expect.
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