• United States
IDG Enterprise Consulting Director

Here’s to a rollicking broadband price war!

Jun 02, 20046 mins
BroadbandData Center

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. John Lubbock, Sr.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

John Lubbock, Sr.

Dear Vorticians,

On what seems like the first sunny day in weeks in New England, I’m feeling the age-old pull of summer – that yearning to be outdoors and to simply let the warmth of the sun seep into my increasingly ancient bones. I share a lot of wisdom – ancient and otherwise – in the quotes that open each VORTEX Digest and, while I hope you benefit from all the ideas, I very much wish that you’ll embrace the thinking above as summer enfolds us.

Now, I’ve got a real grab bag this week, starting with some news and moving on to a wealth of additional wisdom from your fellow Vorticians.

You know, they say there’s no good news, but it simply ain’t true. People win the lottery (though many more lose it each week), long-separated family members find each other, certain baseball teams finally win the World Series.

And I’ve got some good news for you (and me, ultimately, I hope) and, strange as it seems, it comes from a carrier. This week, SBC announced that it has dropped the price of its DSL service to less than $15 a month, a $5 decrease from the previous price. Now, granted, that’s the lower speed version (384K-1.5M bit/sec), but the carrier also offers a 1.5M-3M bit/sec version of the service for $24.95. That compares quite favorably to the $42 a month I pay for my 4M-bit/sec max Comcast cable broadband service – a ‘discounted’ rate for spending so much damn money on cable TV.

SBC says it is all about capturing broadband market share in the next coupla-three years before cable companies complete their rollout of voice services and offer the vaunted triple-play (voice, video, data) on a wider scale. I say huzzah! (Sorry, been watching too much Deadwood.) I hope this SBC move sparks similar reductions on the part of other carriers (Verizon’s lowest current rate, for example, is $29.95) and that Comcast CEO Brian

Roberts understands that customers like me would be happy to shave a good chunk off our broadband bill and have very little loyalty to their current provider. Sadly, I can’t get DSL in my neighborhood but I still say: Here’s to a rollicking broadband price war! (Oh, and Verizon, how about some fiber to my home.)

Now, some thoughts from other readers on earlier missives. On my pieces about the growing battle between Cisco and Juniper, Vortician Sam Short, an honest-to-God IT executive who has to actually make choices between vendors like those, wrote: “John, for Juniper to compete on a level playing field with Cisco, they need wireless and VoIP products. These are the hot enterprise technologies right now.”

So, being the tireless seeker after truth, I asked Sam if he would align his shop with Juniper if the company added those technologies. “Possibly, although we are pretty much a one-vendor shop. We made the move from Nortel to Cisco about six or seven years ago when Nortel could not deliver their Layer 3 Gig Ethernet switch. We had money earmarked for a network upgrade (from ATM/Token Ring/100BaseT) and needed a Gigabit solution. The move to Cisco has proved to be a good one so far. We have seen a lot of value with the one vendor/one support arrangement and our experience with Cisco maintenance is very positive. If I felt Juniper could provide all our switch, router, [radio frequency}, security and VoIP needs, then we would consider it.”

Thanks Sam.

Speaking of Juniper and VoIP (and referencing my thoughts about Juniper trying to outflank Cisco in the enterprise), Vortician Martha Young wrote: “John, about that flank stake . . . not to be confused with flank steak, a cheap cut of meat. (Sorry about the rough humor.)  Did you catch the Avaya-Juniper announcement about their heightened relationship? Two things that make this interesting from the Juniper/Cisco perspective: 1. VoIP market share and Avaya’s strength in this area vs. Cisco’s. How’s that for a flanking move for Juniper? 2. Avaya’s strong relationship with Extreme to support the intelligent networked infrastructure. Could Juniper be eyeing that for leverage, not needing to really be in the switch market? Hard to say at this point in time, but one has to agree this is a fun competition to observe. Things have been so drearily slow for way too long…ever since Cabletron morphed and took off the boxing gloves.”

That latter point is a reference to a marketing stunt Cabletron pulled at a long-ago Interop show in which boxers representing Cisco and Cabletron sparred in front of the audience and, wouldn’t you know it, Kid Cisco kept going down for the count. This networking pugilism generated more than a bit of ill will between the companies.

On my story about complexity being the killer app – a killer of applications and a killer opportunity for vendors – Vortician Thomas Valler wrote: “John, I agree with your editorial that complexity is the next killer app, but for ‘complexity’ I would substitute ‘regression.’ Consider some numbers: 

Windows 2000 Professional system with SP4 (my simple home installation):

.dll files – 2,955

.exe files – 774

Patched XP with SP2 (my simple home installation):

.dll files – 3,952

.exe files – 1,022

At this rate, I’m surprised Microsoft can change ANYTHING without breaking something else.”

And Vortician Matt Schwartz wrote, in as acronym-laced a missive as I can recall: “I think you have touched on the next killer app: complex systems that promise to make our existing complex systems much ‘easier’ to manage via ‘virtualizing complexity,’ which is really much more complex than the previous reality.

“For instance, we now have a legacy – yet very complex – business system (DCOM, MTS, UDB gateways, SQL, NT4, Win2k, WIn3k, SNA, Unix, Linux etc) wrapped into various hosted 8-way ESX architecture or AIX Power 5s. These various ESX host systems are virtualized into a single managed view with a complex drag-and-drop Control Center product. The guest images themselves are SAN [storage-area network] hosted (EMC) using the latest SAN virtualization technology (for ease of management) and those images are SRDF’d [EMC Symmetrix Data Recovery Facility] to a remote site for DR [disaster recovery] – that again uses virtualized dual purpose VM [virtual machine] hardware to support QA and DR systems sometimes simultaneously.

“Creating complexity to ‘better manage’ complexity is the next ‘killer app’ – or third rail if you like.”

That’s it for this week. Thanks to all my correspondents in the field. You know where to reach me:

Bye for now.

P.S. I’m still accepting entries for the most innovative use of RFID.