The Future Operating System

So, once ago, some guy said the network is the computer, and that guy, Scott McNealy, along with a few others built a company governed by that vision. Well, the technology timing was a bit off as was the exact wording of the corporate motto (purportedly restructured), but the general gist is now seemingly a real possibility. But, in a completely different way.

Over the weekend, I had coffee with an interesting fellow from NeuStar. Who the hell is NeuStar you might ask? The company was originally founded as unit of Lockheed Martin, IMS Communication Industry Services. In 1999, the FCC approved a switch of the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) functions from Lockheed-Martin to NeuStar, a new entity financed by Warburg Pincus. The company took responsibility for assignment and management of area codes and will also the local number portability database as Local Number Portability Administrator (LNPA). Previously, NANP (which came from the Telecom Act of 1996, I believe) has been handled by Bellcore (today known as Telcordia).

So, I bring this up partially because of my coffee meeting and partially because VeriSign recently bought MMS provider LightSurf Technologies. Mike Masnick presents a perspective that is right on, pointing out a concept that I've come to struggle with, the eventual possibility (or lack thereof) of a stupid network. Om Malik also makes some insightful comments on the acquisition. VeriSign acquired Illimunet in 2001, NeuStar acquired NightFire in 2003, and now this.

I'm convinced that this growing space, which VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos refers to this as the "intelligent infrastructure" and my friend from NeuStar calls the "new operating system for communications," is going to really heat up. Both VeriSign and NeuStar have the OS, now they need the applications that run on it.

Interoperability is a fairly necessary component to communications, and it's not a trivial issue. InPhonic has made a go of it, and is growing at breakneck speeds. And, as VeriSign and NeuStar (and InPhonic) both handle core components of this interoperability, communications networks become increasingly complex, service providers are melding together across mediums (utp, gsm, cable, dsl, wifi, etc) to handle VoIP, MVNO's are percolating from all walks of life, and as there are increasingly more companies playing ball, the party is only going to get much much bigger.
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