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Tuesday, 28 May 2013 16:57

How to ignite demand for NBN bandwidth, and more


For many, the question of what will drive demand for the NBN's bandwidth remains unanswered and while the there are multiple initiatives seeking to provide answers, Australia would do well to emulate the USA where a new body, US Ignite, has been created to do just that, but with very broad membership and hugely ambitious goals.

Its starting position is that we will need not just 100Mbps of bandwidth, but 1Gbps and its specific goals are to have, within five years, 60 demonstrable next generation applications and 200 community test beds. Progress to date is encouraging. After just one year or existence it will demonstrate the first 20 of these applications at its Applications Summit in Chicago in June.

A presentation on US Ignite by its founder and CTO, Glenn Ricart, was for me one of the highlights of a two-day conference in California organised by NetEvents to mark the 40th anniversary of the invention of Ethernet (You can view all the presentations online here. The historical ones in particular are fascinating).


Ricart said that US Ignite had grown out of "our observation that we had a chicken and egg situation. We had no compelling Internet applications that would monetise the advanced infrastructure we were building, software defined networks, virtualisation local cloud computing."

In other words, the goals of US Ignite extend beyond simply helping to create applications that will consume bandwidth. They embrace other emerging concepts that Ricart sees are presently lacking compelling applications. In particular software defined networking (SDN), virtualisation and one that was new to me: local cloud computing. He argues that local cloud computing will be essential to overcome the latency that is unavoidable when centralised databases are accesses over long distances.

Delivering the keynote speech at NetEvents Ethernet Innovation conference, Ricart said: "We have three goals at US Ignite. The first is to create 60 compelling, transformative applications based on things you couldn't do today, based on new technologies, things that you've been hearing about and will hear about today: software defined networking, local cloud computing, taking gigabit to the end-user, reducing latency, things that are going to change the way the internet works today.

"Second, that we get 200 community test beds, 200 communities, who are eager and willing to adopt these new technologies and their applications. And third, to coordinate best practices among these communities, among the industry partners, and to make sure that government, industry and communities are working together to make this goal happen."


The aims and objectives of US Ignite are certainly relevant to Australia but perhaps more important is its means of achieving them. While US-Ignite was initiated by the Government - it has its origins in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) - it is not a government body but a non-profit public private partnership.

Ricart explained: "Unlike many countries, the US Government has difficulty working with the private sector because that is viewed as the government choosing winners. So in order to work with our industry partners effectively we set up a non-profit organisation. The members pay their dues and the Government helps fund groups to develop new applications."

To date US Ignite has signed about 30 partners. They include major US telcos, global IT&T vendors, research and education networks, municipalities and other non-profit organisations.

US-Ignite has no plans to develop or own intellectual property - that will be left to its members. Ricart said: "I want to incentive our partners to be commercial. All I ask for is the right to demonstrate their technologies."

US Ignite is focusing on six application areas seen has having high, national priority: Education & Workforce; Energy; Health; Public Safety; Transportation; Advanced Manufacturing.

Its aims are bold: "US Ignite will transform how we receive healthcare, educate our children, keep our communities safe, become more energy efficient, train our employees, and manufacture goods."

And they are exactly the goals that the Government has repeatedly promised for the NBN. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a diverse group of telcos, equipment makers, academia and venture capitalists in Australia all working through one organisation towards those goals?

The author attended the Ethernet Innovation Summit as a guest of NetEvents.


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