When I see glib talk about the inevitable transition to IPv6 or DNSSEC, I have to wonder what industry people think they are working in.
Let me give an example that has nothing to do with networking: storage capacity.
Now if there is one constant that everyone in the computing industry can agree on it is that they expect storage media capacity to increase. I remember the days when a 20Mb hard drive was a thing of wonder. Today I have a pair of 2Tb drives sitting in my machine. My first digital camera came with a 8Mb Compact Flash drive, I had to pay $350 for the 32Mb card to make it useful. Today I can get an 8Gb card for $25.
So it is no surprise that the cutting edge of storage capacity has now reached 3Tb hard drives and 128Gb flash chips. Both of which are on sale today and neither of which can be used.
You can connect a 3Tb hard drive to a SATA cable and use it to store data but you can't use it as a boot drive unless your motherboard has specific support for going beyond 2Tb which most manufacturers will not deliver until later this year. Those of us who want to be able to build a machine without many additional hours of customer support calls and scouring Web help forums know that we should probably wait until mid 2012 or more likely 2013.
Meanwhile the situation in the removable flash media space is even more rubbish. The original SD specification had a capacity limit of 2Gb which was extended in the SDHC specification but only to 16Gb and so there is now yet another new standard SDXC which allows another increase in capacity, but only to 2Tb.
The industry knew in 2000 that the hard drive capacity would exceed the 2Tb limit in another decade and it knew that 16Gb would be reached within 3-4 years when the SDHC standard was announced.
These were completely predictable and predicted events that could have been solved long before they became a problem. Instead nothing was done until the issue became a crisis.
People can suggest conspiratorial explanations for this behavior, but it is hard to see how any party actually benefits. I am not going to replace a camera to use a new memory card and the inability to boot a machine from the latest hard drives will only increase the rate at which magnetic media are replaced by solid state.
Naive faith in markets misses the rather obvious point that the outcome the market is set to optimize may not be the outcome that is in the best long term interests of vendors or customers. A market is only a form of feedback loop and a feedback loop only works on the data that is used to make changes to the input.
The consumer or purchasing manager is buying with a short time horizon. They assume that the vendor is taking the long term view. Meanwhile the pressure on the vendor is always to be more customer focused which in turn means meeting the needs the customer raises this quarter and this purchase cycle, not taking a long term view and predicting where the industry needs to be in 5 years time or in some cases 2 years time.
And so it really is no surprise that 20 years after we realized we would run out of IPv4 addresses the stock has finally run out and we still can't run IPv6 except as a science experiment.
If we are going to get anywhere we have to recognize that the market is only going to result in the long term outcome we think is necessary if we address the feedback mechanism.
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