Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

Carriers, Apple, Google, Microsoft... Fighting Over Slices of the Pie

Part 3 | Do the bit-carriers really have an open playing field to do what they want?

Much of the dialog over net neutrality seems rather dated. This is understandable, since the debate has been going on since last century.

The January 14th Federal Appeal Court decision in favor of the Internet access providers gave those companies (apparently) a degree of latitude to selectively block or prioritize edge provider services. We know that they want to do this, even though they might be coy about admitting it. Verizon, the plaintiff in the recent appeal case, issued a statement saying that nothing much will change as a result of this decision. We all expect Verizon and the other ISPs to take advantage of this change to the maximum extent they can. If they don't their shareholders might be a bit upset, after spending all that time and money.

However, there's more to this than the presence or absence of the FCC's now depleted Open Internet Rules, now substantially demolished. Do the bit-carriers really have an open playing field to do what they want? Since this debate started, the Internet has moved on. As a result the expectations of the access service-providers on one side, and the network neutrality proponents on the other, may both have to be revised. In my last blog on the topic of net neutrality, I hinted that there might be other factors in play that could make the whole concept less simple than it was when the topic first became hot. One of these factors is the role (and power) of the device manufacturers. Let's start there.

Apple was one of the first companies to demonstrate that there's more than one way to build a walled garden. While the Internet access providers dreamed of an end to net neutrality so they could control and charge for the flow of media from edge providers to content providers, Apple and others have already succeeded in doing something similar, and without spending huge amounts on legal actions and lobbying. And without upsetting their customers much, either.

In the mobile world, users of iPhones are pretty much limited to the apps chosen by Apple and offered in the Apple App store. By and large, those Apple-selected apps, which often dominate the users' experience, define the edge providers that the iPhone can access. Of course, general-purpose web browsing is still available, but most people live quite happily within the walled garden of apps approved by Apple. Apple led the way in circumscribing user behavior in this way, but the fashion quickly caught on. Android users have the Google (Play) store, and Windows Mobile users have the Windows Phone Store.

We can see the same thing happening for fixed-line Internet customers using desktops and notebooks. Oddly, Linux users were the first to experience the app-store approach. Some Linux distributions have long provided their users with an easy route to install approved applications from online repositories; non-approved apps are still available, it's just harder work to get them. With recent releases of Apple OS/X (Snow Leopard onward), the default way of buying software is via the Apple store; buying direct from a third-party vendor is starting to feel like a rather exceptional thing to do, as users are challenged when they try to bypass the store and have to tweak some security settings to make it possible to install a non-official app. From Windows 8.1 onward, Microsoft Windows users have their own App store too.

I don't believe there is anything suspicious going on here. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the open source community are all aiming to make life simpler and easier for users, and at the same time create a user environment that is more structured, and controlled. These large corporations and communities are not forcing users into these walled gardens. They are enticing users to come inside and be safe and comfortable. For most ordinary users, this is seen as a fair trade: a win-win situation. Users can always take a walk in the wild woods outside if they want to, it's just that increasingly they don't want to.

Meantime, the US access providers have been busy in their efforts to remove the constraints imposed on them by the FCC. Now, theoretically, they are free to block and favor edge providers as much as they like. Well, perhaps not completely. Google, Apple, MS, and a lot of other companies in the web-connected device business have already built up their own portfolio of favorite web-enabled apps, providing device users with information services, online games, social networking, streaming media services, cloud services and more. Any attempts by the bit carriers to block or favor any of those online services would impact on the perceived value of all those net-connected devices, one way or another. The device manufacturers are now a firmly established part of the Internet value chain, and as such they will not be passive. If an access provider wants to provide preferential service to an edge provider, then the access provider needs to be sure the preferential user experience is not thwarted by the user's device. Or, if an access provider wants to downgrade an edge-provider's service it might be prudent to clear the ground with the device companies first, because they will want to know whom to point the finger at when their device users complain that certain apps no longer work the way they used to.

It seems that the Internet access providers might have to tread carefully here. Today, access ISPs are differentiated just by price for bandwidth, not much else. As long as the service is passably reliable, users can use any ISP. But, by definition any level of blocking or favoring will make a difference. It must, because if it didn't make a noticeable difference, no edge provider would pay for it. The device manufacturers are bound to take notice. Worst case, the device companies can explicitly tell users which ISPs will provide the best user experience for their devices and portfolio of apps, and which are to be avoided. Best case, the access ISPs will have to share the loot with the device vendors to keep them happy.

Either way, it will be interesting to watch the game. Starting with the iPhone, the device companies have mostly called the shots when it comes to defining the user experience. It's not likely they will be content to see this court decision changing that substantially.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Qosmos has announced new milestones in the detection of encrypted traffic and in protocol signature coverage. Qosmos latest software can accurately classify traffic encrypted with SSL/TLS (e.g., Google, Facebook, WhatsApp), P2P traffic (e.g., BitTorrent, MuTorrent, Vuze), and Skype, while preserving the privacy of communication content. These new classification techniques mean that traffic optimization, policy enforcement, and user experience are largely unaffected by encryption. In respect wit...
Kubernetes, Docker and containers are changing the world, and how companies are deploying their software and running their infrastructure. With the shift in how applications are built and deployed, new challenges must be solved. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Sebastian Scheele, co-founder of Loodse, will discuss the implications of containerized applications/infrastructures and their impact on the enterprise. In a real world example based on Kubernetes, he will show how to ...
Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...
Is the ongoing quest for agility in the data center forcing you to evaluate how to be a part of infrastructure automation efforts? As organizations evolve toward bimodal IT operations, they are embracing new service delivery models and leveraging virtualization to increase infrastructure agility. Therefore, the network must evolve in parallel to become equally agile. Read this essential piece of Gartner research for recommendations on achieving greater agility.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
As the world moves toward more DevOps and Microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The Microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. Serverless computing is revolutionizing computing. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Raghav...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...
Fact: storage performance problems have only gotten more complicated, as applications not only have become largely virtualized, but also have moved to cloud-based infrastructures. Storage performance in virtualized environments isn’t just about IOPS anymore. Instead, you need to guarantee performance for individual VMs, helping applications maintain performance as the number of VMs continues to go up in real time. In his session at Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, Product and Marketing at Tintri, wil...
Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) has announced that NoviFlow Inc.has deployed IxNetwork® to validate the company’s designs and accelerate the delivery of its proven, reliable products. Based in Montréal, NoviFlow Inc. supports network carriers, hyperscale data center operators, and enterprises seeking greater network control and flexibility, network scalability, and the capacity to handle extremely large numbers of flows, while maintaining maximum network performance. To meet these requirements, NoviFlow in...