Monday, January 03, 2011

LUS' Ben Segura Goes to Google

Ben Segura, a lead engineer at LUS Fiber, has been hired away by Google. His linkedIn profile says he started January 1st. He'll be quartered in Google's Mountain View, California headquarters and manage the Technical Program (job description) for Google's widely publicized 1 Gb "Google Fiber for Communities" project. It's a considerable understatement to say that's a good job. Google has promised to install a 1 Gb fiber-to-the-home system in one or a few communities around the country and he'll head up the technical effort for one of the most watched—and most—hopeful projects around.

What that program offers is truly impressive, which accounts for the more than 1,100 communities (including eight in Louisiana alone) that have applied for the very few places that will be available. About the extent of the program, Google sez:
We're planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We'll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people



It's a testament to the prestige of Lafayette's experiment that Google finds Segura's experience compelling. Segura's only related work experience is at LUS (and his degree is from ULL.) As I understand it, a standout item on his resume was developing a way to make our 100 Mb intranet work. The LUS intranet—100 megs between all citizen-subscribers, regardless of the speed of the tier of service they purchase—has been a bragging point for Lafayette and is widely recognized as LUS' most unique feature. Google makes a point in their project overview of saying: "Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone."

An LUS-style intranet certainly fills that bill and maximizing intranet service will be one way that Google can begin to meet the implied promise it makes by touting a 1 Gig connection. —In most networks in this country the speed of the last mile is the main constraint on your experience but on a 1 gig local network the constraints will be out in the larger internet and users will seldom experience the full power of their enormous pipe. As we've discovered in Lafayette having a fast local connection is great, but it does not mean that your internet connection will be able to keep up. Google can, and surely will, put its own services on the local network. (My own suggestion to Google is that it do the same in Lafayette--and in any other muni network that will guarantee the full-bore speed to all its users that Lafayette does. That would expand its support of high-speed networks beyond its few sites and make a larger market for innovation.) Google will, as well, make sure that the connection to the backbone is always 1 gig (that can be an issue in Lafayette); what it can't do is make the link up and down from the target server to the backbone is any faster; typically that link will not support 1 gig.

Segura's first project site will likely be the exploratory project Google is putting together in Stanford (where Google's first server was located back in the day when the founders were doctoral candidates.) The first site or sites in the large-scale project will be announced early this year and Segura will have a huge influence on the technologies they use to accomplish the communities and Google's goals. It's a job where a person can make a difference.

Congratulations to Ben; its a great thing for him and his family and a good thing for Lafayette to have a native son heading up a project of this nature at the world's most influential internet company.

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