Cisco: Cloud, Data Center Network Traffic on the Rise

By 2016, data center traffic will hit 6.6 zettabytes, with almost two-thirds of that comprising cloud computing traffic, according to a Cisco study.

Cisco Systems officials see network traffic in data centers continuing to skyrocket, and cloud computing workloads playing an increasingly large role in that growth.

In its second annual Cisco Global Cloud Index, the networking giant said that worldwide data center traffic will quadruple by 2016, reaching a total of 6.6 zettabyes. In addition, the global cloud traffic—which Cisco called the fastest growing part of data center traffic—will jump sixfold, from 683 exabytes in 2011 to 4.3 zettabytes within four years.

Cisco and other networking vendors have talked about the rapid rise of Internet traffic worldwide, fueled in large part by the tremendous growth in the number of Internet users globally and the number of connected devices—particularly smartphones and tablets—those people are increasingly using to access the Internet.

Thanks to such trends as greater worker mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, corporate networks also are seeing a jump in the number of users and devices gaining access. However, Cisco officials in their Global Cloud Index said that for data centers, most of the traffic is generated by data centers themselves and cloud computing workloads that are largely untouched by individuals.

Between 2011 and 2016, about 76 percent of data center traffic will stay within the data center, according to Cisco's study, released Oct. 23. Most of that traffic will be generated by storage, production and development data, with another 7 percent of the traffic coming between data centers via such workloads as data replication and updates to systems and software.

The remaining 17 percent will be driven by users hitting networks and the cloud for such reasons as surfing the Web, emailing and streaming video, the company said.

"One of the key takeaways from the study is that enhanced data center virtualization is a key networking benefit that is driving many organizations to cloud computing," Thomas Barnett, director of thought leadership in Cisco's worldwide service provider marketing group, said in an Oct. 23 post on the company's blog. "In the past, one server carried one workload. However, with increasing server computing capacity and virtualization, multiple workloads per physical server are common in cloud architectures. The results include fewer physical servers to support higher processing demands, more efficient data center operations, and more ubiquitous access to network services and content for consumers and business users."

Global traffic growth in data centers stood at 1.8 zettabytes in 2011, but will jump 31 percent by 2016, to 6.6 zettabytes. According to Cisco's report, released Oct. 23, 6.6 zettabytes is equal to 92 trillion hours of streaming music, 16 trillion hours of business Web conferencing and 7 trillion hours of online high-definition video streaming.

Cloud computing's role in the total data center traffic will only increase, according to Cisco. In 2011, it accounted for 39 percent of all data center traffic; by 2016, it will account of 64 percent. Cloud computing will see a sixfold growth in traffic between 2011 and 2016, while overall data center traffic will jump fourfold.

"This year's forecast confirms that strong growth in data center usage and cloud traffic are global trends, driven by our growing desire to access personal and business content anywhere, on any device," Doug Merritt, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Cisco, said in a statement. "When you couple this growth with projected increases in connected devices and objects, the next-generation Internet will be an essential component to enabling much greater data center virtualization and a new world of interconnected clouds."

Regionally, North America generated the most cloud traffic in 2011, followed by the Asia-Pacific region and Western Europe. However, that will change by 2016, with the Asia-Pacific generating the most, followed by North America and Europe, according to Cisco.

The same will be seen in cloud workloads; North America in 2011 had the most cloud workloads, but by 2016, the Asia-Pacific will have the most.