Interconnection: History in the Making
Part 2: Connectivity-Driven Transformation Picks Up Pace
In the first installment of this blog series, The Dream to “Network Humans Through Technology,” we took a look at how the computing era of the digital economy set the stage for dramatic advances in connectivity. Today we’ll explore how this early promise came to life.
The Digital Economy’s Network Era
Data networks grew with the mass market adoption of PCs, transforming computers from standalone boxes to connected systems. Floppy disks and “sneakernets” were supplanted by file servers and local area networks (LANs), making it faster and easier to share information. Files and documents that once took days to mail or 10 minutes to fax could be transmitted in seconds.
Microprocessor-based systems and networking innovations in LANs, metropolitan area networks (MANs), and wide area networks (WANs), along with operating system and networking standards such as UNIX, Ethernet and TCP/IP spurred distributed computing.
Companies like 3Com, Cisco, Ciena and Juniper pioneered new switching and routing technologies. Telecommunications companies laid new network lines that circled the globe many times over. As more people, companies and information became connected via networks, the groundwork was laid for the biggest transformation of all: the Internet.
The Digital Economy’s Connected Era
As networks became commonplace, they evolved from proprietary, closed-off segments to open thoroughfares for transmitting information around the world. Now TCP/IP enabled networks to converse in a shared language. People could access data beyond their own PC, LAN or WAN, quickly shrinking the distance between businesses, people and geographies. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 1995 there were only 22 million Internet users in the United States. By 1998, the figure had quadrupled to 88 million.
In spite of all this progress, the existing places where carriers, network service providers (NSPs) and Internet service providers (ISPs) could connect were not equipped to scale and grow the Internet. This is where Equinix came in. Conceived in 1998 as a vendor-neutral environment where different providers could come together and “peer” to exchange information, Equinix enabled companies around the world to collaborate in new ways. This network peering ecosystem was supported by a consortium of carriers who needed to add scalability and connectivity to their customer offerings.
Equinix’s direct cross connects, network peering capabilities and Internet Exchange brought all different types of companies together. NSPs and ISPs peered over private, high-speed connections (bypassing the public Internet), providing more secure and cost-effective connectivity services over greater distances for a growing global market of customers. Vertical markets, such as financial services and online advertising, could see the value within Equinix worldwide data centers and direct connections, and began to develop their own ecosystems to capitalize on the rapid growth of those markets.
Over the past decade, the networked era morphed into a time of constant “anytime, anywhere” connectivity, made possible by new mobile, cloud and social media technologies. And the economic impact has been tremendous. Global e-commerce revenues grew from $286 billion in 2000 to nearly $1.5 trillion in 2014. The corporate stalwarts of the computing and network eras have been joined by new trailblazers like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Facebook alone has grown from 1 million users in 2004 to 1.4 billion monthly users in December 2014.
Finally, mobile applications have empowered us to interact and work from anywhere. More emails are now opened on mobile devices than on computers. New connectivity-driven capabilities such as GPS-guided maps and near-field communication have spawned indispensable modern conveniences such as Uber and Apple Pay – services that were inconceivable just a decade ago.
The connected era is now giving way to transformative capabilities involving faster, richer, radically different forms of connectivity. And the interconnection stakes have been raised.
Read the entire Interconnection: History in the Making series: