Internet of Things, Video Driving Internet Traffic, Cisco Says

By 2021, global internet traffic will jump to 3.3 zettabytes, with emerging technologies like SD-WAN, virtual reality and augmented reality growing.

internet traffic

The amount of global IP traffic will almost triple over the next five years, hitting 3.3 zettabytes by 2021 as multiple factors continue to accelerate the worldwide digitization trend, according to Cisco Systems officials.

According to the latest version of Cisco’s annual Internet Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast, the internet of things (IoT) will continue to be a driving force, while video will account for more than 80 percent of the traffic running over global IP networks. More people will have more personal devices, machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will increase, and emerging trends like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) will play a larger role on networks around the world.

A lot of the burden regarding not only networking but also security will fall on service providers as pressure on global networks grows, according to company officials.

“As global digital transformation continues to impact billions of consumers and businesses, the network and security will be essential to support the future of the Internet,” Yvette Kanouff, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Service Provider Business, said in a statement. “Driving network innovation with service providers will be key for Cisco to support the needs of their customers who want reliable, secure, and high quality connected experiences.”

The numbers themselves are staggering. Over the next five years, the number of internet users will grow from 3.3 billion now to 4.6 billion in 2021, or 58 percent of the population, while the number of M2M connections will account for more than half of the 27.1 billion devices and connections within five years and 5 percent of global IP traffic by then, an indication of the growing influence of the IoT, particularly in such areas as the connected home, health care, smart cars and connected cities.

Bandwidth-hungry video will continue to drive internet traffic growth. Currently, 67 percent of internet traffic is from video, and there are 1.4 billion video users; those numbers will jump to 80 percent and almost 1.9 billion users in five years. By 2021, users will view 3 trillion internet videos per month, or about a million video minutes every second. Playing a larger role in all this will be live internet video—such as streaming of TV apps and personal live streaming on social networks—which will see 15-fold growth and hit 13 percent of internet video traffic by 2021. VR and AR traffic will jump 20 times over five years, which will account for 1 percent of global entertainment traffic.

By 2021, there will be 541.6 million WiFi hotspots, a sixfold increase, and WiFi- and mobile-connected devices will account for 73 percent of internet traffic in five years. SD-WAN, among the fastest-growing sectors in the larger network virtualization space, will increase six times and represent 25 percent of WAN traffic in five years, and SD-WAN traffic will grow 44 percent a year. Traditional WAN will grow 5 percent annually. In another key trend, end-user internet traffic is pushing closer to the network edge, as more than a third of traffic will not touch the core by 2021.

Looking at security, Cisco officials said the average size of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks is growing, nearing 1.2G bps, which they said are enough to take most organizations offline completely. The number of such attacks globally jumped 172 percent between 2015 and 2016, and will jump 2.5 times by 2021.

All of this will put even more pressure on service providers already trying to keep pace with demand. In a post on the company blog, Thomas Barnett, director of service provider thought leadership for Cisco’s Worldwide Service Provider Marketing Group, noted the increasing presence of IoT-related M2M devices, the growing amount of global internet traffic that will be wireless and the rising threat of DDoS attacks as networking and internet trends that service providers need to pay particular attention to. Barnett also outlined recommended actions, such as transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6, developing plans for migrating to 5G and developing a long-term, comprehensive security plan.

“Today, consumers and business users depend on global IP networks more than ever,” he wrote. “While it can be easy to take connectivity for granted when networks are working well, it can be a minor inconvenience or a major hardship when networks fail or provide sub-optimal experiences. Global service providers are constantly monitoring, managing, and innovating their fixed and mobile infrastructures to meet subscriber demands.”