Cisco: The Rise and Rise of The Zettabyte

CISCO HAS RELEASED the sixth edition of its annual Visual Networking Index project report, in which a bunch of network engineers and scientists do some long, hard, in-depth crystal ball-gazing at expected growth in network demand through to 2016. When a multinational network equipment maker like Cisco (whose gear powers a huge chunk of the interweb) makes predictions, you can bet your bits and bytes that they make for some fascinating reading.

In the report, Cisco boldly predict that the data traffic being zapped about the net will reach a positively stonking 1.3 Zettabytes. Believe it or not, a Zettabyte isn’t yet another talentless American celeb, nor is it the noise that an elderly aunt makes when she sneezes. It is in fact a phenomenally huge number that you’d typically only hear from a computer scientist or a network equipment maker like Cisco.

A Zettabyte is actually a byte with 21 zeros (you heard it first on Witchdoctor: billions are for pussies). Putting things in perspective, a Zettabyte is 10x more data than all the data we sent over the net as recently four years ago. Expressed in an even practical manner, a Zettabyte is the about the same as 38 million DVDs being sent across the interweb every hour (sort of makes a mockery of the three strikes law, doesn’t it?).

When talking about the internet, big numbers are a dime a dozen, but Cisco’s report takes the cake and buys the bakery by reporting that data traffic online will jump by a boggling 350 Exabytes in 2016 from a projected 966 Exabytes in 2015 (yet another big number  – an Exabyte is equal to one quintillion bytes – I swear I didn’t make that up either – which is something like 1000000000000000000B = 1018 bytes = 1000000000gigabytes = 1,000,000 terabytes)  this isn’t too far off  the total amount of data that traversed the Internet in 2011. See what I mean? Cisco really doesn’t kid around when it comes to big numbers.

The Cisco report predicts four key drivers of this huge growth:

More Hardware: Cisco predict there will be 19 billion connected things by 2016 (I’m definitely buying Intel shares).

Zippier Broadband: Cisco sees average broadband speeds increasing 4x (about time!).

More Web Junkies: The internet population is expected to reach a stratospheric 3.4 billion by 2016. Putting this in perspective my dear readers, that’s 45 percent of the projected total population of planet earth that same year. The report makes no mention of cat populations which is a real shame, as we all know the internet really runs on cats (especially on Caturday). Workplace productivity impacts, strangely enough, are not discussed either.

More media content: Cisco predicts that we’ll be downloading video in 2016 at the rate of 1.2 million video minutes per second. This makes sense – with more and more of us signed up for unlimited broadband plans or plans with huge allowances, the Interweb is rapidly replacing the family VCR thanks to affordable media boxes such as Boxee and sites such as Youtube.

Perhaps the most startling fact of the forecast is the explosive growth in internet users outside the US: Cisco makes some pretty staggering predictions on the Internet user population in 2016 by geography. Check these out:

North America, 269 million, annual growth rate, 1.6%.
Western Europe, 319 million, CAGR, 2.5%.
Central/Eastern Europe, 197 million, CAGR, 7.7%.
Latin America, 287 million, CAGR, 11.0%.
Middle East and Africa, 542 million, CAGR 16.1%.
Asia Pacific, 1.7 billion, CAGR 13.2%.

Cisco also sees rapid increases in broadband speeds in developing markets, bringing them close in capability to Western markets:

North America, to 37 Mbps, from 11 Mbps.
Western Europe, to 42 Mbps, from 11 Mbps.
Central/Eastern Europe, to 29 Mbps, from 10 Mbps.
Latin America, 287 million, to 12 Mbs, from 4 Mbps.
Middle East and Africa, to 8.4 Mbps, from 3.4 Mbps.
Asia Pacific, 1.7 billion, to 36 Mbps, from 8.1 Mbps.

Boggling, isn’t it? PAT PILCHER

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