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Novell CEO offers vision of 21st century networks

Yesterday, interstate highways revolutionized American commerce. Tomorrow, computer networks will do the same.

So said Eric Schmidt '76 in the 1998 Gordon Wu Lecture yesterday afternoon. Schmidt spoke to a crowded lecture hall in the computer science building on the topic of "The New Face of Networking."


James Wei, Dean of the School of Engineering, introduced Schmidt as a "superstar in Silicon Valley." Schmidt is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Novell, Inc. He also serves on the advisory council of the University's computer science department. Schmidt addressed issues surrounding computer networks as well as the future of networking. "Networks are really the dominant force for the 21st century," Schmidt said.

Rapid growth

He explained that the size and use of networks is growing worldwide at an explosive rate. The amount of data on the World Wide Web grows by 30 percent every three months, Schmidt said.

Schmidt also noted that the Web is growing so fast that the "Heisenberg effect" is coming into play. This means that researchers cannot accurately measure the size of the Web, because before they finish, it has already grown more.

This growth has forced companies to seek creative ways to connect buildings within cities to the network. As a result, sewers and gas lines are being considered as possible conduits. In Manhattan, old telegraph tubes are being used to run cable, Schmidt said.

As the Web grows, so does the portion of the population that uses it. Schmidt said that nearly half the homes in the United States now have Web access.

Schmidt explained that the increased use of networks will cause an evolution in networking. The "new face of networking is not an interface. . . it has a human face," he said, explaining that use of the Web will become more personalized and user-friendly.


Schmidt also said that online commerce will grow tremendously. Drawing an analogy between the rapid growth of the Web and the creation of the interstate highway system decades ago, he said "the interstate highway system begat Holiday Inn, McDonald's . . . What will the next Holiday Inn be?"

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