Cloud Traffic Poised to Quadruple by 2017, Challenge CIOs

A recent report from Cisco Systems suggests that global cloud traffic will reach 5.3 zettabytes in 2017. That's more than four times the traffic seen in 2012. Analysts and vendors say this will have far-reaching implications for enterprise IT.

By J.D. Sartain
Wed, November 27, 2013

CIO — Cisco Systems's third annual Global Cloud Index forecasts that global cloud traffic will more than quadruple, from 1.2 zettabytes in 2012 to 5.3 ZB in 2017. That works out to about 443 exabytes a month, or about 476 billion GB.

More than three-fourths of that data will originate in the data center, "largely generated by storage, production and development data in a virtualized environment" and "used in activities that are virtually invisible to individuals," the report says. An additional 7 percent, "primarily driven by data replication and software-system updates," will flow between data centers. The remaining 17 percent of this traffic will come from end users' multimedia and project-oriented cloud services.

Cloud Traffic to Come From Users, Not Enterprise Databases

Forrester infrastructure and operations analyst James Staten thinks Cisco "under-represented" end-user cloud traffic. "End users will fuel far more than 17 percent of data center traffic," he says, especially if you think about public data centers hosting online and cloud services and not just enterprise data centers.

Cloud Traffic

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Gerardo Dada, senior director of product marketing at Rackspace, notes that companies are increasingly relying on external cloud services.

"Digital interactions are becoming essential for all kinds of business and social activities, and customer expectations have changed," Dada says. As users consume rich media on their own terms — watching video on mobile devices over wireless 4G networks, for example — bandwidth requirements change. "Companies are realizing it's more efficient and more cost effective to allow a specialist hosting/cloud service provider to run their high-bandwidth, complex, global Web properties than trying to figure things out on their own."

Krishna Subramanian, product marketing vice president for the Cloud Platforms Group at Citrix Systems, agrees. "We're seeing organizations shift more of their workloads to the cloud architecture in order to support the accelerating user demand for mobile anytime-anywhere access businesses," she says. "While cloud adoption initially began with greenfield cloud-native workloads, there is a growing demand from businesses to orchestrate both cloud-native and traditional enterprise workloads in cloud-based data centers."

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Forrester principal analyst Dave Bartoletti says this means enterprises will have to rethink how they manage the growing cloud and Internet of Things. His colleague, Andre Kindness, says keeping files synchronized across multiple personal and enterprise devices will be one of the "things" that challenges companies in coming years.

As the consumerization of IT drives employees to bring personal smartphones and tablets to work, the need to synchronize files is growing "from a whisper to a scream," Kindness says, noting that 21 percent of global information workers use file-sync solutions. With the number of tablets in use globally poised to reach 905 million by 2017, "the scream will grow louder."

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