Video is going to be the primary driver behind a rapid increase in Internet traffic over the next five years, according to Cisco Systems.
In Cisco's annual VNI (Visual Networking Index) Forecast, released June 9, Cisco officials said the company expects IP network traffic to grow to five times its size between 2008 and 2013, thanks mostly to the fast growth of video on the Internet-from televisions to video-on-demand to video communications-in both the consumer and commercial spaces.
By 2013, video will account for 90 percent of all global consumer IP traffic, according to the company's numbers.
"In the consumer, business and mobile worlds, traffic continues to grow," Thomas Barnett, senior manager of strategic messaging and communications at Cisco, said during an online discussion of the findings.
According to Cisco's survey, IP traffic will grow from 9 exabytes per month in 2008 to almost 56 exabytes a month in 2013. By then, annual global IP traffic will reach 667 exabytes, or two-thirds of a zettabyte. A zettabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes, according to Cisco.
Video communications traffic-including video over instant message and video calls-in 2013 will grow to 10 times its current size, while mobile data traffic will double every year until 2013, growing to 66 times its current size, Cisco predicted. Video is playing a key role in that as well: Almost 64 percent of global mobile data traffic will be video in 2013, the Cisco survey said.
For businesses, video on WANs-such as through video conferencing-is rapidly growing, said Arielle Sumits, senior analyst for Cisco's service provider marketing unit. By 2013, a midsized business will be generating as much IP traffic as the entire Internet saw in 1998, Sumits said. Business IP network traffic will grow 33 percent between 2008 and 2013.
Cisco's Barnett spoke of the rise of what the company calls "hyperconnectivity" on global IP networks, particularly among consumers. By 2013, there will be 11 billion square feet of screen space in the world, from mobile devices to TVs to laptops and PCs. A recent study by NEC found that employees' productivity increased with larger screens, he said.
"The number of screens can give customers, businesses and mobile users more access to data, and particularly visual data," Barnett said. "More screens and bigger screens will change how people use the network."
Other trends feeding into a more hyperconnected future include Intel's statements that by 2013, there will be 8 billion networked devices of all types in the world. In addition, industry research company iSuppli has said by 2013, there will be 500 million multicore chips in use, which will mean faster speeds in all sorts of devices.
Also driving network traffic is the growth of multitasking by consumers, businesses and mobile users, Barnett said. Active multitasking includes activities such as having the television on while working on the computer or checking e-mail while looking at the Internet or listening to online music. Passive multitasking is such actions as watching one TV show while the DVR is recording another, running online storage or having an IP camera system.
Multitasking drives up the number of IP sessions in use at the same time. Currently there are 36 hours in what Cisco calls a "network day"; by 2013, a network day will be 48 hours.
Cisco is enhancing tools it offers to give consumers and businesses insight into their IP network use. The company's Pulse product now includes applications to monitor social networking, gaming and VOIP (voice over IP) traffic, and its Global Internet Speed Test application for users of Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch and of RIM's BlackBerry Storm measures mobile network speeds at any location, either cellular or Wi-Fi. Users can then submit their data and locations, giving others the chance to see where mobile network speeds are best.