The Impact of Virtualization

It seems to me…

Digital media has destroyed much of the magic and mystery of the medium ~ John Dyer.

Recent articles on virtualization [i] discussed how Internet availability has changed the way we think about some of the more common “things” in our lives.  Much of what in the past would have been physical objects exist now only in digital form in cyberspace – a trend only accelerating as data storage migrates from our own personal computers to out in some chimerical cloud.

Sale of music CDs has declined as music now is streamed or downloaded to online devices.  Digital pictures are taken on cameras or mobile phones, uploaded to social sites, and never printed.  Sale of e-books now has surpassed sales of books in hardcopy.Rather than purchasing movies on DVDs (or Blu-Ray), videos are increasingly being downloaded.  Games are played online (how many people check their cows, chickens, and cornstalks on FarmVille?).  Merchants are accepting payment from mobile phone apps eliminating the need for physical currencies.

We maintain contact with friends and relatives using e-mail and social media sites rather than writing “letters” relegating the U.S. Postal Service to the delivery of bills, items available only in printed form (some magazines, brochures, etc.), and unwanted junk mail (including political campaign material).  Paper-based correspondence is becoming a lost form of keeping in touch.  In the past our close friends normally resided within a short distance of us, now we frequently are separated from our “closest” friends by vast distances.  Not only do we maintain contact through e-mail and Facebook, we visit using Skype where we actually see each other.

Our lives are becoming increasingly digital and the way we think of ourselves is changing to accommodate technological advances.  The bookcases of hardbound books, racks of records, picture albums and frames hung on walls were an expression of who or what we considered ourselves to be.   On-line content, whether photos, music, or text, is available at any time from any place and instantly shared as we so choose.

The downside of digital media is seldom considered.  Applications are upgraded or replaced by different ones, storage formats change, and older files no longer are accessible.Conversion programs for older file formats are not always available and the information is lost[ii]Photos and tags can be deleted from social media sites, and storage crashes result in loss of entire data collections.

While digital processes provide advantages, numerous other problems also exist slowing the transition from physical objects.  Transmission speeds remain much too slow to adequately support many desired applications.  Speeds necessary for various uses are[iii]:

768Kbps to 1.5Mbps
Basic Email
Web Browsing
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
1.5M to 3M
Standard Definition (SD) Video
Remote Surveillance
3Mbps to 6Mbps
File Sharing (Small and Medium Files)
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)
6Mbps to 10Mbps
Online Gaming
Video on Demand (VOD)
10Mbps to 25Mbps
Remote Education
IPTV high Definition (HD)
25Mbps to 50Mbps
HD Video Surveillance
50Mbps to 100Mbps
Video Conferencing with Multiple Users
Remote Supercomputing
Over 100Mbps
Real-Time Data Collection
Real-Time Medical Image Consultation

Most HDTV high-definition video sets now being marketed have 1080p[iv] video resolution which provides 1080 horizontal lines of vertical resolution and progressive scan and a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9 implying a resolution of 1920 pixels wide by 1080 high.  The frame rate can be either implied by the context or specified after the letter ‘p’, such as 1080p30, meaning 30 progressive frames per second.

For live broadcast applications, a high-definition progressive scan format operating at 1080p at 50 or 60 frames per second is currently being evaluated as a future standard for moving picture acquisition.   In Europe, 1080p50 is considered to be the future broadcasting format standard.

To watch just a six-gigabyte 720bpi HD video requires a download bandwidth of 15 Mbps or more but today, viewers want full 1080p video which requires speeds up to 40 megabits per second.

While 91 percent of U.S. homes have broadband Internet access, only 57 percent actually use it[v]Since the U.S. invented the Internet, we tend to think we are the leader in available Internet speed and penetration but reality (as also true in many other areas) is far different.  A recent Internet posting ranking consumer download speeds by country produced the following results:

1.   Hong Kong:          36.55 Mbps
2.   Andorra:                36.15 Mbps
3.   Lithuania:              33.70 Mbps
4.   Taiwan:                 28.88 Mbps
5.   Singapore:             28.09 Mbps
6.   Macau:                  27.95 Mbps
7.   South Korea:         27.74 Mbps
8.   Latvia:                   27.22 Mbps
9.   Luxembourg:         27.11 Mbps
10. Romania:               26.08 Mbps

25. United Kingdom:  15.75 Mbps

33. Russia:                   14.06 Mbps

35. Canada:                 12.83 Mbps
36. United States:       12.55 Mbps

42. Australia:               10.76 Mbps

62. China:                    6.66 Mbps

 Not only are U.S. Internet connection speeds considerably slower than many other countries, we also have one of the most expensive mbps (megabytes per second) rates at $3.33.  These higher costs result from a lack of effective competition among Internet service providers which also provides a disincentive for broadband providers to significantly raise the speeds included in their service tiers.  High-speed Internet connections in the U.S. costs consumers more than in other countries so fewer people can afford them.

The U.S. broadband infrastructure investment tends to be comparatively lower than in other nations.  Investors discourage carriers in the short-term from making long-term investments in network infrastructure.  Upload speeds also are significantly slower than download speeds since business models assume Net content to primarily be what Internet providers deliver to us, not what we might want to upload.

For most users, the difference between download and upload speeds has not been significant since people generally do far more downloading than uploading.  Upload speeds become more important to someone who is going to be doing large amounts of uploading, such as someone who works from home and wants to exchange files with a remote network, or people who play a lot of online games.  It will become increasingly important as users switch to online video phone systems.

The problem is recognized and even President Obama has addressed the issue on numerous occasions[vi]Unfortunately, the current Congressional deadlock has prevented any progress on this issue regardless of its national importance.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[i] Greengard, Samuel. Digitally Possessed, Communications of the ACM, May 2012, pp14-16 and Anderson, David.  Historical Reflections, Communications of the ACM, May 2012, pp33-34.

[ii] As an example, my PhD thesis was written in the early 1980s on 5¼ inch floppy disks using the Wordstar text processor on a computer running the CP/M operating system. While hardcopy versions are available, the digital copy no longer can be accessed.  Copies of several of my books from the early 1970s only exist on 12 inch floppy disks.  None of my documents written in the 1980s using Microsoft Word running on SCO Unix still are accessible.

[v] Miller, Joshua Rhett. Obama’s High-Speed Internet Plan: Broadband or Boondoggle?,, 02 March 2009.

[vi], See State-of-the-Union speeches or for specific example, speech about U.S. innovation,, 16 September 2011.


About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
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12 Responses to The Impact of Virtualization

  1. berlioz1935 says:

    It is all so true. But what can we do? The change is coming whether we like or not.
    We used to write letters and used to keep their copies in large binders. We still have them.
    The old photos in the albums are fading. Searching for a particular photo takes often hours. Now on a disk or hard drive it takes only minutes to locate them. If the technology changes we would have to transfer everything before the old technology becomes unusable; like the floppy disks. I’m sorry to hear you lost all your old documents.

    The Internet has given us new friends and we met people, like yourself, we would have never heard of before, never mind ever meeting them.

    Australia is building an National Broadband Network (NBN) Have a look at what they are doing here. It is being build against the wishes of the opposition, who want to stop the spread of the NBN when they get into government.

    We are using Skype and are very happy with it. Yes, the world is changing into a new, digital reality and if we don’t change too, we will be left behind. I think you are making splendid use of the new technology.


    • lewbornmann says:

      There is so much going on, it truly is exciting. I’m not sure where all of it will lead but certainly would like to be around for another hundred years to be part of it.


      • berlioz1935 says:

        You’re right, nobody knows where it will lead to. Your government and its security agencies make “good” use of it. The surveillance, forecast by George Orwell, by Big Brother is alive and kicking in the USA. The other evening, on the same news hour, we had the report of the goings on in the US and a report of cyber hacking and stealing. by the Chinese. I’m sure they will see this reply.


        • lewbornmann says:

          There are unfortunate parallels between some of what we see in our society and that foretold in the book 1984. The pretense of privacy always has been somewhat of a figment. Prior to the introduction of electronic communication, we considered privacy to be what we might not know about our neighbors or ourselves. In reality, governments always have known much more about us than we wanted known by the general public. Today, we are more able to see behind that cosmetic facade and have become aware that those in positions of power have access to more personal data than with what we might be comfortable.

          Since much personal data was stored in separate databases, we, as individuals, were not able to access it and consequently considered it relatively safe. The government always had access to census and yearly income tax records, unemployment benefits, background checks, military records, voting registration, driver’s licenses, credit agency reports, and numerous other sources of “private” information. Any of this separately is relatively innocuous but when aggregated provides a relatively comprehensive portrait of who we are and what we do.

          In reality, we do not care. All of us readily enter personal information into multiple systems such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, and other programs. We increasingly store all our files out in the cloud that we now know the government systematically scans. The latest revelations as to how much Orwellian observation is being conducted will not result in any changes in how we conduct our personal private affairs.

          All of us (at least of our generation) are familiar with George Orwell but few know very much about the real man behind the pseudonym — Eric Arthur Blair. He was an amazing individual.


  2. belislive says:

    Thanks for this site!


  3. Sugel says:

    Speeds require an EV-DO Rev. A-capable device. When using an EV-DO device that is not Rev. A-capable or traveling in the extended Broadband Rate and Services Area, you can expect download speeds of 400-700 Kbps and upload speeds of 60-80 Kbps.


    • lewbornmann says:

      I apologize for taking so long to respond to your comment but this has been a very busy summer for disaster response volunteers: flooding, hurricanes, wildfires…

      Any mobile broadband capability, similar to EVDO or HSPA, is useful to anyone without access to traditional broadband; e.g., cable, DSL, or WiFi. EVDO Rev A does provide download rates of 600-1,400Kbps and 500-800Kbps upload (slightly slower than AT&T’s HSPA but more widely available). Still, there are obvious tradoffs such as cost and the already mentioned access and availability. Personally, I am satisfied with my DSL service at home and am fortunate to be able to provide satellite service when traveling. For anyone else, it is a capability they might want to consider.


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