Wednesday, March 13, 2013

a Gig is a Gig no matter how you use it

Yesterday I ran across this article on Google Fiber from Slate Magazine on Digg.   The gist of the article is that a Google Fiber is cool and all, but people aren't really using the Gig.

A gig is power...literally.

Farhad Manjoo was nice enough to talk to me on twitter last night.  I think he really wanted to know how we use a Gig in Chattanooga, and I don't think know I didn't do a good job of explaining how we are using fiber, because as open as he was, he didn't seem to get it.

I think the point he was trying to make is that a Gig isn't useful enough for me to pay for, or we don't use it to it's fullest potential.  Well yeah, I don't run a business, and honestly I don't even have Netflix. But that doesn't mean I don't use a Gig, or that it's not important in my day to day life.

How I use the Gig

I rely on the Gig, every day.  Every person who uses EPB for their power is connected to the Gig network. Chattanooga's Fiber is the foundation of our smart grid that redirects power to minimize power outages.  Problems are now detected instantaneously.  This triggers a chain of events that includes calculating new power distribution paths, identifying which smart switches are effected, and pushing out the necessary changes to the switches in the smart grid.  This all happens in about the time it takes you to blink twice.

Think about that. Blink two times fast.  Now think about the fact that my house has not gone longer than that without power in the 2 years since I moved back in Chattanooga.  It's pretty awesome. If you're not impressed, know that since I've been back, we've had 2 different tornado carrying storms.  One of which was widespread and deadly.  Think about how much data the 600 square mile smart grid had to upload and download during those storms.  We used the Gig to its full potential, and I was directly affected.

You can call me weird, you won't be the first, but it's incredibly cool to experience a power outage now.  The power doesn't flicker.  It goes off, then almost immediately comes back on.  You don't panic the moment the lights go out. If the lights stay out, the problem is close and legit.  Be impressed.  This is a bigger deal than I can put into words.

See, the Gig actually translates to power in Chattanooga.  On a fundamental level, its all just getting electrons to move.  We're using fiber to move power, which moves data, to move power.  That's a LOT more useful that Netflix.

How other people in Chattanooga use the Gig

We (not me specifically, bc as I said, I don't even have Netflix) also use fiber in the way Mr. Manjoo was looking for in Kansas City...and then some.  Our Gig is a symmetrical Gig, meaning we can upload information as fast as we can download it.  This is crazy important when you think on a server center type scale. Not being the hold up in the exchange of large scale data is extremely valuable.

Companies like Baynan have moved to Chattanooga to help facilitate the exchange of large amounts of data, in their case, between research institutions.

We're also the place to test products of the future.  We're not going to be the only city with these capabilities for long, and testing here now means faster rollout down the road. Events like Gig Tank are encouraging this phase of development

How I think the Gig is going to change things 

It's funny how what is old is often new again.  Think about batteries, and battery backup.  Batteries require physical space to store energy, and as such, most of us don't think about a battery backup for our computers if the power goes out.  When you reduce the majority of power outages to seconds rather than minutes or hours, a battery backup suddenly makes more sense again.  I'm sure server centers have something like this to cover the time before a generator kicks on, but think about how this idea becomes marketable to the general population.  Auto Save is good, but we all know it's not *that* good. There's potential for a new product that is directly dependent on the power of a Gig.

Other things that are talked about a lot in Chattanooga are real time computations and collaborations.  Everything from moving medical imagery, to disaster relief and alerts.

There are a lot of ways to use a Gig, and for me, today, the way I use it everyday is power.

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