Microservices and Smart Networks Will Save the Internet


Imagine smart cars talking directly to each other so they don’t crash. Imagine hooking your smart phone into a giant mesh of phone video streams at a stadium event, so you can watch your event from multiple perspectives. Imagine smart factory devices that manage themselves for better safety and efficiency. Imagine intelligent phones, and other intelligent devices, communicating directly at close range so they don’t bog down the Internet or cell phone networks. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this benefits disaster management, to give one example, which traditionally is hampered by overloaded phone networks.

What makes all of this possible? Robert Shimp of Oracle paints a picture at LinuxCon North America of a fascinating future full of specialized distributed services and devices. We grew up with smart, powerful server-client computing over dumb networks. Now the networks are getting smart, and the endpoints are getting smaller, smarter, and more distributed.

It’s a huge disruptive shift that is going to leave IT professionals scrambling to figure out what to do. Shimp opens his presentation with some interesting or scary, depending on your perspective, numbers. He says, “It’s a fact that over the next few years, about 50% of all the corporate data centers, the privately held corporate data centers in large companies are going to go away. For small or mid-sized businesses, the percentage is going to be dramatically higher. That leaves the IT ops person with a couple of choices: either you’re going to go to work for some intergalactic infrastructure provider or you’re going to find something else interesting for your company to do. I think the answer is that there are a lot of very interesting things to do.”

Really, Really Interesting Things

“In fact, I will make the forecast that no more than one-third of the business applications out there are going to run in some giant hyperscale data center in Chicago or wherever. Two-thirds of all the business applications are, going to be distributed computing types of applications…there are, roughly speaking, 20 some odd billion devices out there on the edge of the network and intelligent devices. That’s going to 80 billion by 2025. It’s a very dramatic shift. There is a lot more intelligence in smartphones today that’s only going to increase more and more over the coming years. That’s going to create a lot of computing capacity at the edge of the network to do really, really interesting things.”

We’ve seen predictions for many years that all of these billions of devices coming online will create massive Internet congestion. Which is true, so the solution is to distribute everything. “Most of these types of devices are incredibly chatty, and if you allow them to simply connect up to the hyperscale clouds and do whatever they’re doing, it’s going to bring the Internet to its knees over time. Rather than go with that approach, which is going to be incredibly expensive, the idea is to move to distributed applications in which we push the computing capacity, all the data and the applications as close to the edge of the network as we can.”

So just how, exactly, do we do this? How do we implement security and updates? How do we manage increased complexity? Watch Shimp’s talk (below) to learn what is happening out on the bleeding edge of computing, some of the tools and architecture already being developed, and a lot of fascinating details on what the future looks like.

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