| 3 min read

The Spinning Wheel of Death

By  Murray Goodman,
 27 May 2015


This week a number of factors caused me to think about our move online, the benefits and the risks, both at home and in the office.

I have finally succumbed to the teenagers in my household and turned on the Netflix one month free trial via my Apple TV iTunes account. We already watch YouTube music videos and rent movies online so my first thought was, we will have even more content available to us that we don’t watch. Or will there be even more arguments over who gets to watch the only internet connected TV in the house. I have now realised that there a few subtle trends going on in my household and given I am also in the telecommunications industry I am aware that these trends also impact the wider industry and New Zealand business.


First, I have noticed that my household is now for the first time watching more time-shifted TV than real time, whether recorded or downloaded. Time shifted TV is when you watch the content you want, when you want – not when the broadcaster tells. Secondly, my 30Mbps UFB fibre connection that I have had for the last three years is going to get upgraded as competition for internet capacity in my household heats up with ten or more internet connected devices in a household of four. Finally what impact will the rapid adoption of Netflix (as an example) going to have on not only my internet experience at home, but also the one I have in the office.


At home what the kids call the ‘spinning wheel of death’ has become the de-facto test for how good the internet connection is. In the past this signalled the computer was processing or at worse case had hung and we had to either reboot, or do something else until it sorted itself out. Today the teenagers in my house all watch the spinning wheel with baited breath as they load a new HD movie and notice that at various times of the day the wheel spins longer than at others; a long time is measured in seconds in a teenager’s internet world.


This is what got me thinking. In the business environment as applications are hosted in the cloud a long time is also measured in seconds. If your business application is also slow to respond due to internet performance the users also revolt only this time productivity also drops.


This was reinforced to me today by a channel partner who commented that the quality of the network connection as they moved customers online to services like Office 365 and AWS was critical to how the customer viewed the project, no matter how well planned the transition was.


I have talked about this before – the user experience with cloud hosted services is only ever as good as the underlying network. So, what is the impact of all that time shifted television content having on businesses that are still using basic internet services to support mission critical business applications? Does your service provider have low latency dedicated peering connectivity to your cloud provider and do residential users impact the performance of your business network? Have you thought about what happens if your internet connection fails – for whatever reason? How long can your business survive?


As we rely more and more on the content that is delivered over the internet, both at home and in business, we become increasingly frustrated with poor network performance. In both cases the users are frustrated and complain to the bill payer, but in the business world the ‘spinning wheel of death’ can take on a whole new connotation.