Saturday, July 11, 2009

Metcalfe’s Law, let me count the ways…

I keep pondering the implications of a billion connected people and a trillion connected devices. These estimates, from my post on IBM and Cloud Computing, originated with IDC market research, predicting that by 2011, there will be one trillion Internet-connected devices, up from 500 million in 2006.

But if that is the size of the network, what is the value of this network?

Metcalfe's Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. Using Google, I determined that one billion squared is a quintillion, a one followed by 18 zeroes.

But are users just people? According to the Wikipedia, Metcalfe's Law was originally presented, circa 1980, not in term of users, but rather of "compatibly communicating devices." Is the value of the network going to be a trillion squared, which is a septillion, a one followed by 24 zeroes?

I suspect that if we toss out a quintillion here, a septillion there, eventually it will add up to real money.

For more discussion of Metcalf’s Law and its relevance, read Simeon Simeonov’s “Metcalfe’s Law: more misunderstood than wrong?”

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