Each year Cisco releases an updated forecast of Internet data activity that is part of the Visual Networking Index (VNI), developed to track and forecast the use of visual networking applications. In addition to some rather startling trends and size of global IP traffic projections, it’s a fun read just to see the names of numbers involved. It is not often that we evaluate usage using a numeric term like a zettabyte. In fact, reading the VNI forecast requires a primer on large numbers to understand the growth of traffic on the Internet and how it relates to individual, home, business and application usage.
Using a gigabyte as point of reference, it is followed by terabyte, petabyte, exabyte and zettabyte. None of this is esoteric. Cisco’s VNI forecast for global IP traffic is 1.4 zettabytes by the end of 2017. So, understanding a zettabyte is rather important. A gigabyte is 109 (1,000,000,000). A zettabyte is 1021 (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). Although, we are not yet into zettabyte territory, in 2012 43.6 exabytes (1018) was transmitted per month or 523.2 exabytes for the year. Given a forecasted CAGR of 23%, it will take less than five years to thrust the world into zettabyte territory.
The fastest growing region for IP data consumption from 2012 to 2017 will be Middle East and Africa experiencing a CAGR of 38%. However, the bigger change will be when Asia Pacific overtakes North America, the current largest consumer of IP data, in 2015 with 35.5 exabytes per month versus 34.5 exabytes per month.
To put these overall numbers in perspective, in 2017 nearly a million minutes of video content will cross global IP networks every second. Video on demand traffic will be the equivalent of 6 billion DVDs per month. And each month, the amount of video carried would require an individual 5 million years to watch every single second.
There is a lot in this report and it is one my favorites to read each year. And while a zettabyte is a really big number, my favorite name is the one that comes next. 1024 (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) is called a yottabyte made up of yobibits. Who makes up these terms?
One final point, with the change in how people access the Internet, PCs versus other devices (smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc.), non-PC access will rise from 26% to 49% by 2017. In the future, please watch where you’re going!