Cisco Predicts the Future

Earlier this month, Cisco released their Visual Networking Index Forecast for 2015, and they predict some incredible growth in cyberspace. Together with a few dozen top consulting, analysis, and strategy firms, Cisco projected broadband connections, video subscribers, mobile connections, and Internet application adoption for the year 2015 using data from service providers, current technology trends, and knowledge of evolving hardware dictating enabling factors such as broadband and computing speeds.

The forecast concluded that global IP traffic will quadruple by 2015, reaching a zetabyte of data. At first, such a figure sounds like hype, but consider all the trends that are now driving internet use. The developing world is bridging the digital divide, with IP traffic growing fastest in Latin America and the Middle East and Africa not far behind. Not only will there be more users, but there will also be many more ways to get online. By 2015, there will be twice as many devices connected to IP networks as people, up from one device per capita in 2010. Much of this will come from non-PC devices, which currently account for 3% of traffic and are expected to grow to 15%. Mobile data traffic will increase 26 times worldwide as smart phones continue to grow more powerful and prevalent, but other non-PC devices are also beginning to access the internet, with traffic from TVs, tablets, and machine-to-machine modules growing rapidly. We can already see this trend emerging as HP works to bring more infrastructure into the cloud like its printers and thin clients. Such devices would likely be brought online through wireless connections, which Cisco predicts will generate more traffic than wired devices by 2015.

Another factor resulting in the surge of internet traffic is the increasing use of video. Video has already exceeded peer-to-peer traffic in 2010 and is set to be half of internet traffic by the end of 2012. By 2015, it would take over 5 years to watch all the video that crosses global IP networks every second, and business video conferencing will increase sixfold.

What does this all mean? Big Data is about to get much bigger and, with the continued growth of video and new forms of traffic, more complex, increasing the value of solutions like Hadoop. Conventional data centers will also be pushed to the limit, requiring the sorts of economies of scale delivered by cloud computing. And, in a world where an expected three billion people will be online and two networked devices per capita, new possibilities for productivity, innovation, and the flow of information will arise. It will be up to us, the technologists, to grow along with these trends.

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