The recent Skype™ outage provides an interesting look into our technological crystal ball and I don’t mean this as a poke at Skype™ either. It just so happens the December outage experienced by the company provides an effective platform for us to conduct an easy dissection into the inter-workings of our digital futures and P2P as a disruptive technology. As weather we want it to or not, it will start playing a larger role in our connected lifestyles.
Here we can peek under the covers at the risk and opportunities which P2P will bring via driving numerous landscape changes from both a technological perspective as well as a thought leadership. As our “Systems Thinking” since the start of the industrial age has been top down, hierarchical in nature built to match our operational governance models. Today however we live in a different world, one where instead of the once gleaming tall building which scraped our skylines and drew our gaze upward in awe as we arched our head backwards to take it all in. Now in turn, we have traded this all in for the less glamorous, however more effect “sprawl effects“. Whereas today we see technology and ideas instead of moving onward and upward, expanding horizontally at an even faster rate due to less organization/technologic-al friction.
So as we get back to the nuts and bolts of horizontal progress, let’s start with a basic P2P rule, no one can hold “all” the cookies. A key idea spawned from P2P’s “pirate” roots was the concept if content was distributed in “pieces” it did not constitute the whole. Thus “technically” it was not “pirating” till the pieces where assembled so if you held say 1/1000 of a movie and your friends held the remaining 999/1000 then what you had was simply digital trash.
However this is where things got interesting, and not in a Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean kind a way either. As think about it in this way if say you go to Netflix ™ and down load the same movie, they (Netflix ™) have to pay to store the whole movie, then pay for the bandwidth to move it to you (in whole), then on top of that everyone (e.g. carriers, ISP, etc) in between the two of you have to invest in the network/server scaling to make all this “traffic” happen at closer to maximum capacities rather than averages (this is an important point).
Whoa there is a lot of capital outlay here not to mention time to make all this happen, and what about operating costs? However think about this, what if you broke the whole up into many pieces and created a “mesh” whereas you used part of your neighbors storage, bandwidth and computing power rather than having it all from a central site? Also to add resiliency to this landscape because we know how unruly your one neighbor can become. Let’s say we now distribute this across 100 of them? Hey isn’t this how P2P works today? You bet and strip away the unethical aspects and you are left with something which is amazing as well as cost effective!
To further expand on how this will work in the new 5G world, I wrote a piece on this a while a back. However back to Skype ™ and their outage problems and what does this mean to us? Well during December (the busiest phone month of the year) they started to have scaling problems. Ok nothing new, however to solve it they eventually figured out they needed to add more “Super Nodes” read as “seeders” to the mix. Now the real interesting point is why did it take so long for the smart folks there to figure this out?
It’s simple as the current paradigm is focused on linear problem thinking, however we are moving to a “mesh” based world and therefore have coined the term “Mesh Thinking” as our current mental models tend to support a “top down” view of “cause and effect” problem solving. This is a big thing as we move more and more toward not only the cost advantages of P2P models, however also the resiliency potential. To fully recognize the value of this shift, our problem solving models will also have to change to resolve applied problems in these areas quicker.