Friday, 12 June 2009

Cisco Visual Networking Index

Cisco has been tracking the potential impact of visual networking applications on the internet, under the title of Visual Networking Index, and a couple of days ago released its latest forecast. It makes fascinating, if slightly depressing, reading.

The full details of the forecast are here and the following are some selected 'highlights':

- Annual global IP traffic will exceed two-thirds of a zettabyte (667 exabytes) in four years. If I have my sums right, that's around 700bn gigabytes.

- Global IP traffic will quintuple from 2008 to 2013. Overall, IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40%.

- In 2013, the internet will be nearly four times larger than it is in 2009. By year-end 2013, the equivalent of 10 billion DVDs will cross the internet each month.

- Internet video is now approximately one-third of all consumer internet traffic (excluding P2P file sharing).

- The sum of all forms of video will account for over 91% of global consumer traffic by 2013.

- In 2013, internet video will be nearly 700 times the U.S. internet backbone in 2000.

- Globally, mobile data traffic will double every year through 2013, increasing 66x between 2008 and 2013. Mobile data traffic will grow at a CAGR of 131% between 2008 and 2013, reaching over 2 exabytes per month by 2013.

- Almost 64% of the world's mobile data traffic will be video by 2013. Mobile video will grow at a CAGR of 150% between 2008 and 2013.

- Business IP traffic will grow at a CAGR of 33% from 2008 to 2013. Increased adoption of advanced video communications in the enterprise segment will cause business IP traffic to grow by a factor of four between 2008 and 2013.

You've probably got the point by now. Video is driving rapid internet growth which in turn has huge implications for energy use and emissions. Just think about the increase in data centre capacity that these figures imply.

I think there are two issues here. Firstly, it emphasises the fact that emissions from data centres will continue to grow significantly, certainly in the short term. All the effort being put into making data centres more energy efficient will not hold up the growth very much or for very long. Putting data centres where there is renewable energy available, or where waste heat can be re-used, is a better long-term strategy.

Secondly, the energy used in data centres will inevitably incur increasing costs as carbon taxes are implemented. Ultimately, these costs will have to be passed on to the customer in some form. In fact the use of bandwidth for video has already been in the news in the UK this week, with BT insisting that the suppliers should be charged for the high proportion of the bandwidth they take. Carbon taxes will add to that pressure.

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