Cisco: Global cloud traffic will swell twelvefold by 2015

Study foresees worldwide IP traffic quadrupling, but also says most networks aren't ready to handle advanced cloud apps

Thanks to corporate and end-user hunger for always-on access to rich media, complex apps, and troves of big data, global data center IP traffic will see a 33 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the next few years, hitting 4.8 zettabytes by the end of 2015. But cloud computing is poised to help sate that demand for processing and storage: Annual cloud IP traffic will swell to 1.6ZB by the end of 2015 -- a 66 percent CAGR representing one-third of all data center traffic. By 2014, more than half of all workloads will be processed in the cloud.

Those figures, which come from Cisco's ongoing Global Cloud Index, indicate just how appealing the cloud has become to organizations that have wrangled with rising data center costs, soaring processing demands, and overflowing data pools. Not surprisingly, Cisco also snuck into its report its finding that while some regions throughout the world can support some level of cloud services, few have the network infrastructure in place to support high-end advanced cloud apps.

In the report, Cisco draws a line between data center IP traffic and Internet IP traffic. The former represents data that stays in the data center or that moves from the data center to users or to another data center. The latter represents traffic that flows over the Internet and IPWANs. Data center IP traffic has already crossed the annual 1ZB threshold, according to Cisco, and will hit 4.8ZB by the end of 2015; Internet IP traffic will only near 1ZB by the end of 2015.

Data center IP traffic is so much higher because around 75 percent of traffic remains in the data center. Cisco attributes that phenomenon to three factors:

  • The functional separation of applications servers and storage, which requires replication and backup traffic to traverse the data center
  • Functional separation of database and application servers, such that traffic is generated whenever an application reads from or writes to a central database
  • Parallel processing, which divides tasks into multiple smaller tasks and sends them to multiple servers, contributing to internal data center traffic

With organizations increasingly turning to the flexible and cost-effective cloud for storage and processing, it may come as little surprise that by 2015, Cisco predicts that one-third of all data center traffic will be cloud-based. "Cloud data centers support increased virtualization, standardization, automation, and security. These factors lead to increased performance, as well as higher capacity and throughput," according to the report.

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