Will Google Wave make the network just dumb plumbing?

One network guy says that Google Wave will change everything, most importantly the network.

When news of Google Wave first bubbled to the surface in May, it created a lot of buzz, a little hype and has since ebbed out of the public eye. Earlier this month, Google began letting some of its Apps users test-drive Wave. After a thorough examination, blogger and well-known network guy, Jason Kolb says that Wave will change everything in the same way that HTTP did.

One problem so far with Wave is how to explain it. People can't get excited over concepts and technologies they don't understand. Kolb, (who you may have heard of as the founder of Latigent, acquired by Cisco in 2007) says that at its simplest level, Wave is an extension to the XMPP protocol, but it is also an XMPP client. After reading Kolb's explanations, I'd describe XMPP as a protocol that gives every network node peer-to-peer capabilities.

He writes:

"XMPP is a protocol which describes communication.  It models communication between two nodes on a network. Now, communication can take many forms, and XMPP accommodates many of them.  It also supports different types of conversations:  presence, notifications, subscriptions, back-and-forth--these are all modeled by XMPP.  And it supports a wide variety of communication TYPES as well:  video, audio, text, and so on.

I hear people mistakenly talking about Wave as immature or new technology.  It's not.  XMPP has been around since 1998, being developed and actively worked on for almost 12 years now.  It's been approved by the IETF since 2004. Although it's been mostly used for chat, that's only the tip of the iceberg when you dig into this protocol.  I'm still pretty flabbergasted that this protocol hasn't been used more than it has, and I'm excited to see somebody finally tapping into its potential."

But Kolb also goes onto to say that if XMPP takes root (and he predicts it will, big time), the network becomes nothing more than dumb plumbing.

There is a problem with that assumption and that is practicality. Wave could be a fascinating technology with lots of great uses, but that won't, in itself, make it successful. Google really hasn't dominated any market except online search and advertising. Enterprises have yet to convert to Google's wares en masse. They aren't going to ask Google at this stage of the game to tell them what their next-gen networks, data centers, or even applications should look like. The "dumb network" runs counter to what network companies like Cisco have been working on for decades. Cisco has been building ever more intelligence into the network, making the network gear handle everything from security to application serving.

Google's challenge with Wave will be beyond creating the technology and getting developers on board. If Wave (along with ChromeOS in a relationship that has yet to be properly defined) will change the client, the Internet and the network as we know it, Google will need to make sure that it has strong partners in the network world. This is the lesson that Microsoft discovered when it created and embedded a new IPv6 stack into every version of Windows XP. Let me put it to you this way, Microsoft did that in 2002 and IPv6 has yet to become ubiquitous.

If you can't get an invite to check out Google Wave directly, you can see it again here in the demo video from its introduction in May.

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