Cisco: Holy Mackerel, Cloud Traffic To Explode 12-Fold

According to Cisco's Global Cloud Index, cloud traffic will grow 12-fold by 2015, reaching a jaw-dropping 1.6 zettabytes, a massive increase from 130 exabytes in 2010, and pushing cloud traffic to account for a third of all global data center traffic. That cloud traffic growth represents a 66 percent compound annual growth rate. To put it into perspective, Cisco pointed out that one zettabyte is equal to a sextillion bytes or a trillion gigabytes. Or, in plainer language, 1.6 zettabytes equals 22 trillion hours of streaming music; 5 trillion hours of business web conferencing with a webcam; or 1.6 trillion hours of online high-definition video streaming.

Over the five years from 2010 to 2015, the amount of data center workloads processed in the cloud will grow seven-fold, Cisco estimated, and in 2014 the amount of workloads in the cloud will eclipse the amount of workloads handled in a traditional data center, with cloud workloads taking a 51 percent stake, a massive jump from the 21 percent cloud workloads held in 2010.

But according to Cisco, the world may not be ready for the dramatic spike in cloud traffic. The Cisco Global Cloud Index found that mainly due to the rise in video-based consumer services, data-center-to-user traffic peaks at various times and the amount of traffic per hour during peak periods is expected to rise 2.5 times, ultimately requiring additional capacity.

The problem is, Cisco said, regions assessed during the study -- Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and North America – are ready for basic cloud applications like social networking and web conferencing, but only some have the network capabilities to support intermediate cloud applications and services like video chat and high-def video streaming. And none of the regions assessed are currently able to support advanced cloud applications like high-definition video conferencing and advanced gaming, Cisco found.

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Meanwhile, overall data center traffic will also prove it's no slouch, quadrupling come 2015 to 4.8 zettabytes. Data center traffic will grow at a 33 percent CAGR and increase from 1.1 zettabytes in 2010. Currently, Cisco estimates that in 2010 cloud computing traffic was 11 percent of data center traffic, but that will reach 33 percent of the total amount of data center traffic by 2105.

"Cloud is becoming a critical element for the future of information technology (IT) and delivery of video and content," Cisco said in its report.

Cisco acknowledged, however, that the vast majority of data center traffic is not caused by end users, but by data centers and clouds themselves performing activities like backup and replication. Seventy-six percent of data center traffic will remain within the data center itself as workloads migrate between various virtual machines and background tasks continue. Seventeen percent of the total traffic leaves the data center to be delivered to end users, while 7 percent of total traffic is generated between data centers through actions like cloud-bursting, data replication and updates.

"Cloud and data center traffic is exploding, driven by user demand to access volumes of content on the devices of their choice. The result: greater data center virtualization and relevance of the network for cloud applications and the need to make sense of a dynamically evolving situation," Cisco Vice President of Product and Solutions Marketing Suraj Shetty said in a statement.