Gigabit network economics and paradigm shifts (RFC1216)
Original Publication Date: 1991-Apr-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2000-Sep-12
Internet Society Requests For Comment (RFCs)
P. Richard: AUTHOR [+2]
The history of computer communication contains many examples of efforts to align the capabilities of processors to that of communication media. Packet switching is the classic case of a careful tradeoff between the costs of memory, processing, and communications bandwidth.
Network Working Group Poorer Richard
Request for Comments: 1216 Almanac Institute
1 April 1991
Gigabit Network Economics and Paradigm Shifts
Status of this Memo
This memo proposes a new standard paradigm for the Internet
Activities Board (IAB) standardization track. Distribution of this
memo is unlimited.
The history of computer communication contains many examples of
efforts to align the capabilities of processors to that of
communication media. Packet switching is the classic case of a
careful tradeoff between the costs of memory, processing, and
With all of the attention and publicity focused on gigabit networks,
not much notice has been given to small and largely unfunded research
efforts which are studying innovative approaches for dealing with
technical issues within the constraints of economic science. This
memo defines one such paradigm.
2. Contemporary Network Economics
Recent cost estimates predict a continuing decline in the cost for
processing, memory, and communication. One recent projection put the
decline for $/bit and $/MIP at 99% per decade and put the decline for
$/bps at 90% per decade. Scalable parallel processor designs may
accelerate the cost declines for CPU and memory, but no similar
accelerated decline should be expected in the cost of communications.
Such a decline would imply eventual declines in the cost of 56Kbps
service used for voice, resulting in a negative rate of return for
telecommunications carriers, an unlikely eventuality even if free-
market forces are carried to their logical extreme.
Increases in processing power create additional demand for
communications bandwidth, but do nothing to pay for it. While we
will sell no paradigm before its time, the 9% difference,
particularly after compounding is taken into account, will bankrupt
the internet community unless a paradigm shift takes place.
3. The ULS Paradigm Shift
The ULS paradigm shift breaks the downward spiral by concentrating on
end-to-end datagrams and virtual circuit services operating in the
.01 uGbps region, namely Ultra Low Speed networking.
"The worlds best technological paradigm shifts are useless unless
they (a) are economically viable, (b) have clear applicability, (c)
are technically feasible."
--Milton John in "Paradigms Lost"
3.1 Economic Viability
Cost projections indicate that individual ULS circuits can be
provided at a cost of <$.03/month due to the unusually high
multiplexing that will be possible on Gbit links. The 10 THz
bandwidth of existing optical fibers will be able to support on the
order of 1 TUser, handling populat...