Global Multimedia Networking

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 Global Multimedia Networking  





Many countries and organizations have developed initiatives aimed at establishing an electronic highway such as the National Information Infrastructure (NII) in the U.S. and the European Information Infrastructure (EII). To cover global aspects, a Global Information Infrastructure (GII) is being developed.

The outcome of these initiatives depends on the changes taking place in the information and communications industries because of converging technologies, deregulation, and business restructuring or reorganization based on economic considerations. In short, establishing an infrastructure that integrates communications, computer, and entertainment technology requires the cooperation of industry, government, and standards bodies.

This chapter explores some of the possibilities and problems associated with information infrastructures worldwide. Special attention is given to the role of, and impact on, corporate network users.


The term information infrastructure, which is used interchangeably with the term information superhighway in this chapter, describes a collection of technologies that relate to the storage and transfer of electronic information, including voice, data, and images. It is often illustrated as a technology cloud with user devices attached, including broadband networks, the Internet, and high-definition TV (HDTV).

However, problems emerge when users attempt to fit technologies together. For example, in the case of videophone service and on-demand video service, it is not clear whether the same display screen technology can be used, or whether a videophone call can be recorded on a locally available VCR. This example illustrates the need for consistency between similar technologies and functions.

Relevance of Information infrastructures

The information infrastructure is important because it provides an opportunity to integrate technologies that have traditionally belonged to specific industry domains, such as telecommunications, computers, and entertainment. (Integration details are discussed later in this chapter.) The information infrastructure also presents an opportunity to greatly improve the sharing and transferring of information. New business opportunities abound related to the delivery of new and innovative services to users.

Goals and Objectives of Information Infrastructures

The goals of most information infrastructures are to achieve universal access and global interoperability. Without corporate initiatives, the information infrastructure could result in conflicting and localized services, inefficient use of technology, and greater costs for fewer services. Some of the elements necessary to achieve such goals, including standards and open technical specifications that ensure fair competition and safeguard user interests, have yet to be adequately addressed.


Two factors are often cited as driving the technology boom: the increase in computer processing power and the increase in the amount of available memory. Advances in these areas make a greater number of electronic services available for lower costs. This trend is expected to continue.

Bandwidth Pricing

Unfortunately, comparable gains of higher bandwidths and decreasing costs are not as evident in the communications arena. Whether this is because of the actual price of technology or because of pricing strategies is debatable. Many applications requiring relatively high bandwidths have yet to be tariffed.

On-demand video is an interesting test case for the pricing issue. To be attractive, this service would have to be priced to compete with the cost of renting a videotape. However, such a relatively low price for high bandwidth would make the price of traditional low-bandwidth phone services seem extremely expensive by comparison. ATM-based broadband ISDN is likely to emerge as the vehicle for high-speed, real-time applications where constant propagation delay is required.

The lack of higher bandwidths at inexpensive prices has inhibited the growth of certain applications that are in demand. The availability of inexpensive high bandwidth could revolutionize real-time, on-demand applications, not only in the video entertainment area but also in the electronic publishing area.

Decoupling Networks and Their Payloads

One factor that is influencing the shape of the superhighway is the move toward digitization of information, particularly audio and video. Digitization represents a total decoupling between networks and their payloads.

Traditionally, networks have been designed for specific payloads, such as voice, video, or data. Digital networks may become general-purpose carriers of bit streams. In theory, any type of digital network can carry any and all types of information in digital format, such as voice, video, or computer data, thus banishing the tradition of video being carried on special-purpose cable TV networks and telephone service being carried only over phone company networks. All forms of information are simply reduced to bit streams.

The Service-Oriented Architecture

The separation of information services from bit-delivery services leads to the concept of a new service-oriented architecture as shown in Exhibit 1. The most striking aspect of this service-oriented architecture is that the control and management entity may be provided by a separate service organization or by a distributed set of cooperating entities from different service organizations. The architecture represents a move away from the current world of vertical integration toward one of horizontal integration.

Deregulation of communications also plays a part in this scenario. Deregulation often forces an unbundling of components and services, which creates a business environment ideally suited to a service-oriented architecture.





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