The law of locality

Mon, 2006-03-27 19:42.

People and information want to be closer. When planning where to put capacity, network designers are guided by the law of locality; this law states that network traffic is at least 80 percent local, 95 percent continental and only 5 percent intercontinental. Between 1997 and 1999, for example, 30 percent of al U.S. Internet traffic never crossed the national infrastructure but stayed within a local metropolitan network.

It might be a bit misleading to take this quote from John Thackaras Book "In the Bubble" as a proof for the relevance of local information. The principle of locality in this context refers more to the design and construction of network services using redundant resources that are geographically distributed across the internet.

However the law of locality can also be applied to various other contexts:

Complex adaptive systems and swarm logic heavily rely on local interaction that leads to global group behaviour. Even in multinational process networks local business ecosystems build the dynamic nodes of activity.

Toyota defines locality as a key factor for securing quality within their lean production system. The closer the employee is to the source of a problem the quicker he is able to observe it and take immediate action. This leads to the possible situation, that a single worker can halt a whole production line, if he notices a critical quality issue.

Locality even doesn´t have to be connected to a physical place, like online-communities and social networks that provide a sense of presence and nearness as well.

But all examples have in common, that the context of locality provides a higher degree of responsiveness and connectivity, which leads to higher efficiency.