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“Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway,” Andrew Tanenbaum wrote in 1996, when most people used dial-up networks and Australians couldn’t yet get ADSL.

And if you have a USB key and a pigeon that knows where it’s going, you can still achieve a respectable data-transfer rate if you don’t mind the latency. It would suck as a multipoint-to-multipoint network, since for each node you would need one pigeon for each other node*, and in (say) a thousand-node network, the maintenance of a million pigeons might become an issue.

But jokes about cars and pigeons aside, for someone with a few terabytes of data, the ordinary ADSL connection is what stands between them and a move to the cloud.

Cloud provider Ninefold is now letting people “sneakernet” their initial data dump, sending a SATA or USB storage device to the company for loading into its storage cloud.

The company estimates that transferring the contents of a TB drive over the Internet would take between six and 60 days (depending on link speed). If, however, the user is running at what Pando Networks reports to be the Australian average end-user speed of 348 Kbps**, you’d be looking at a sizeable chunk of a year – more than 260 days.

So it’s probably well above gimmick status for a cloud provider to make it easy to ship in tons of data for users to get started. ®

*What pigeon fanciers need is a routing protocol, perhaps as an adjunct to RFC 1149. We need instead some kind of “minimum path” solution, under which any individual node only needs connectivity to its next node to transfer data.

Picture it like this: the first pigeon knows a single destination, so that is where it delivers the data. That destination knows has pigeons which, in turn, need only be aware of one destination, as long as it’s closer to the destination node; and so on. Perhaps we could call it AGP, the Avian Gateway Protocol? ®

**I’m waiting for Pando’s Australian data, rather than trying to spin up a story that “we’re slower than country X”. Something doesn’t feel right about the 348 Kbps average, so I’m also hoping to get under the skin of the methodology. ®

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