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Cisco Global Cloud Index Forecasts Explosive Growth of Data Center Traffic

November 05, 2014

As noted in another posting today on the impact of a connected world on the future of work and workers, Cisco likes to do look at trends and make forecasts. In fact, its Cisco Visual Networking Index, which looks at Internet Protocol (IP) network traffic, has become the recognized baseline resource for looking at that segment.  In addition, there is a complementary index which focuses on data centers and the cloud, and the great news for those of us passionate about numbers is that the Cisco Global Cloud Index (2013–2018) is now available.

At a high level what the index highlights is the truly amazing trend toward data center-centricity and the cloud in particular which as Cisco notes makes the forecast, “Increasingly important as the network and data center become more intrinsically linked in offering cloud services.”

Key Cisco Global Cloud Index findings

At a high level here are some numbers to crunch.

  • Over the next five years, data center traffic is projected to nearly triple
  • Cloud will represent 76 percent of total data center traffic
  • By 2018, half of the world's population of a UN estimated 7.6 billion will have residential Internet access, and more than half of those users' (53 percent) content will be supported by personal cloud storage services.

Cisco has an extensive infographic on the index, which delineates its findings and is worth scrolling through. Two of the panels are worth a pullout.

Source: Cisco Global Cloud Index (2013–2018)

It should be noted that the 8.6 zettabytes of data center traffic predicted for 2018 is equivalent to streaming all of the movies (approximately 500,000) and television shows (3 million) ever made in ultra-high definition (UHD) 250,000 times.

Also of note is that by 2018, 53 percent of all residential Internet users globally will use personal cloud storage, and the average consumer cloud storage traffic per user will be 811 megabytes per month by 2018, compared to 186 megabytes per month in 2013. Let’s just say that like the remote storage business that has spread across the U.S. in recent years, we all clearly have a lot of stuff we are going to wish to store.

 When people discuss cloud, they often focus on public cloud services or public cloud storage services. However, a very significant majority of today's cloud workloads are actually processed in private cloud environments. Even with public cloud workloads having significant growth, by 2018, almost 70 percent of cloud workloads will still be private cloud-related, requiring the ability of workloads to bridge across a hybrid private/public cloud environment," said Kelly Ahuja, Cisco, Senior Vice President, Service Provider Business, Products, and Solutions.

By 2018, 69 percent (113.5 million) of the cloud workloads will be in private cloud data centers, down from 78 percent (44.2 million) in 2013, and 31 percent (52 million) of the cloud workloads will be in public cloud data centers, up from 22 percent (12.7 million) in 2013.

The index also took a look at global cloud readiness. It found that in 2013, 79 countries met the single advanced application criteria for fixed network; in 2014 that number grew to 109 countries. In 2013 42 countries met the intermediate single application readiness criteria for mobile networks and in 2014 that number grew to 52 countries.

The criteria used to assess cloud readiness, average and median upload/download speeds and latencies were calculated based on global fixed and mobile network speed test analyses cited below.

Basic Cloud Apps / Network Requirements

  • Download Speed: Up to 750 kbps; Upload Speed: Up to 250 kbps; Latency: Above 160 ms
  • Sample consumer basic services: stream basic video/music, text communications, web browsing
  • Sample business basic services: web conferencing, cloud-based learning management system, VoIP

Intermediate Cloud Apps / Network Requirements

  • Download Speed: 751–2,500 kbps; Upload Speed: 251–1,000 kbps; Latency: 159–100 ms
  • Sample consumer intermediate services: smart home, personal content locker (multimedia), HD video/ music streaming
  • Sample business intermediate services: ERP/CRM, IP audio conferencing, videoconferencing

Advanced Cloud Apps / Network Requirements

  • Download Speed: >2,500 kbps; Upload Speed: Higher than 1,000 kbps; Latency: <100 ms
  • Sample consumer advanced services: connected education, connected medicine, HD video chat
  • Sample business advanced services: virtual office, HD audio conferencing, HD videoconferencing

A reason to spend a little time with the index is because some of the other analyses it covers. This includes:

  • A "workload transition" forecast, which shows the workload shift from moving from traditional data centers to more virtualized cloud servers.
  • A supplement on Cloud Readiness Regional Details, which as referenced above examines the fixed and mobile network abilities of each global region (from nearly 150 countries) to support business and consumer cloud-computing applications and services.

We keep hearing about the “Tsunami of Data” that is heading our way and how the three pillars of a cloud-centric world—compute power, storage and networking—all need to be transformed to accommodate what is heading the world’s way. What the index shows is the magnitude of traffic and granularity on its nature. It also indicates that much of the world is fairly ready for all of this. However, whether the industry can catch the wave and ride it to success or gets swamped certainly is an open question. This is particularly true since 2018 is not that far away.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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