Playing the Internet scales

David Rosenblum
Rohit Khare
I was in the audience at BrainShare '95 when Bob Frankenburg -- then president and CEO of Novell -- conjured up a vision of billions of connected devices. My refrigerator magnets still don't receive weather reports, but when they do, we'll need something like PreCache to make them work. At the same time, I keep recalling Rohit Khare's joke at last year's Emerging Technology Conference. The real integration challenge, he said, is in Layers 8 and 9 of the OSI stack: economic and political. That scale's in a different key, and we'll have to learn to play that one, too. Full story at]

The question "Does it scale?" leads to so many different kinds of discussions that I'm starting to think we need a richer vocabulary in order to have those discussions. Data stores, computational capacity, bandwidth, message traffic, and address space are examples of things that can scale, or not, but these aren't independent variables. We have to solve complex equations involving these variables because, at the end of the day, there's one thing that doesn't scale: human attention. In that sense RSS really is the perfect metaphor for pub/sub. How do we tune networks to deliver the right information to the right people at the right times?

Somebody once drew me this chart, which I think he attributed to Guy Kawasaki:

right thing, wrong way right thing, right way
wrong thing, wrong way wrong thing, right way

It's worth reminding ourselves that scaling up -- by making things bigger/faster/smarter -- is a means to an end.

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