I am still trying to wrap my head around the news of the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in Switzerland on July 4th. To be technically accurate, the scientific community is not claiming victory just yet, but instead is saying they have discovered a particle consistent with Higgs, which has been theorized since the 1960′s but never observed–until now.
When scientist Peter Higgs tried to answer the question of what gave sub-atomic particles their mass, which in turn allowed them to hold together in the first place, he theorized that a ubiquitous and consistent particle field must exist. His theory was that the particle field covers the universe, slows down the building blocks of atoms, and makes them stick to one another. Without this field, no protons, neutrons, or electrons would exist, and therefore no elements, or for that matter anything at all, in our beautiful universe.
It baffles me that we have spent the past 100 years of particle physics gnawing at the details of our universe’s creation and have just now discovered what actually enables our universe to exist in the first place. We are only now observing the underlying fabric.
It reminds me of the re-discovery of the AT&T network as a key enabler for recent innovations. When we observe new applications and IT trends, the AT&T network often lies at the core and acts in much the same way as the Higgs. The network underpins applications, and without a solid network, many innovations couldn’t exist. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples:
1. Cloud computing is an obvious place to start. Early distributed networks often had a fail-safe in case the network failed. It was no accident that centralized servers were deployed in locations where the application was most heavily used, and where the developers of the application often sat. The advent of the cloud is really a direct result of the power and reliability of the modern AT&T network. Because of these strengths, hosting an application in the cloud makes sense. The application is safe from a hub failure, and is engineered to quickly grow and shrink based on demand.
2. The explosive growth of mobile applications is another example. The strength of the backbone that connects AT&T’s mobile Internet to Internet at large is a key driver. It is particularly exciting to see the growth in mobile video over the network. The unseen particle that is enabling this is the speed, size, and availability of the network. Using large bandwidth to address the growth of mobile broadband is a top priority for AT&T.
3. Finally, I have recently had a request to implement VoIP (Voice over IP) for call center agents who work from home. Companies want to give workers the flexibility to work from home, especially to cover overnight shifts and language support. Quality of the connection and support of a data screen-pop has always been a barrier to VoIP for home workers. Network ubiquity and the ability to connect wirelessly to the network are changing this situation. If the right network were not in place, it would be crazy to try to enable teleworkers on VoIP.
In all three examples, we tend to overlook the role the network plays in making these applications possible. By taking some time to examine the importance of the network, we realize just how critical it is to have the right network in place from the right provider. Some have compared the AT&T network to the ’oxygen’ that runs applications: ever present and reliable. But today, in honor of the recent announcement in Switzerland, I would like to take it one step further and coin the network ‘the Higgs Boson of our connected world’, the fabric that underlies and keeps our world working and innovating.