Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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Networks Groan Under Weight of Global Traffic 

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It is the best of times for networking equipment vendors, but it may be the worst of times for data-driven enterprises if they can’t figure out how to unclog network connections quickly backing up with unstructured data generated by devices, sensors and insatiable consumer demand for video and other emerging web applications.

The estimates for future network traffic are daunting: A networking index released this week by Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) predicts global IP traffic will more than triple by over the next three years. That works out to 4.8 zettabytes of network traffic by 2022.

Among the drivers are, of course, the proliferation of networked devices that are expected to generate 28.5 billion fixed and mobile connections during the forecast period. More than half of those are expected to be machine-to-machine connections, a category that accounted for only 34 percent of the total number of links in 2017.

The other driver is more internet users as commercial space companies like Iridium Communications (NASDAQ:IRDM), which recently announced a networking partnership with Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN), launch satellite constellations to reach regions overlooked by traditional internet service providers. The Cisco survey estimates that fully 60 percent of the Earth’s population, 4.8 billion people, will be internet users by 2022.

Again, underserved areas like the Middle East and Africa (41 percent) as well as Asian-Pacific countries other than China, Japan and South Korea (32 percent) are predicted to register the highest compound annual growth rates through the early part of the next decade.

“The size and complexity of the internet continues to grow in ways that many could not have imagined.” said Jonathan Davidson, general manager of Cisco’s Service Provider Business.“Global service providers are focused on transforming their networks to better manage and route traffic….”

Among the challenges for networking vendors is deploying bigger, faster pipes that can handle booming IP video traffic that is expected to quadruple by 2022. Along with Internet of Things networks, other applications clogging networks include gaming as well as augmented and virtual reality traffic. Indeed, VR traffic is expected to explode over the forecast period from a more 0.33 exabytes per month in 2017 to more than 4 exabytes a month by 2022.

All these rich-media and other unstructured data will require vastly upgraded global networking infrastructure built around adoption of the IPv6 networking protocol, 5G mobile networks and “network transformation at the edge,” Cisco added in a blog post.

Other key technologies include new Ethernet switches, with manufacturers like Cisco and Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR) delivering next-generation edge and core routing technologies along with 100-gigabit/second Ethernet switches.

“With more bandwidth-intensive (and low latency) applications like autonomous driving smart cars, video surveillance and connected health, IoT traffic now needs to be accounted for, secured and managed in new ways.

“The data generated by IoT applications also has new and emerging monetary value that can potentially create much-needed revenue streams to help justify (and financially support) further IoT development and innovation,” Cisco added.

Industry tracker IHS Market estimates about 75 billion IoT devices will be fielded by 2025.

 

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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