Cisco Charts Cloud Growth

Carl Weinschenk
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Application Acceleration in the Clouds

Acceleration technologies can dramatically improve the performance of emerging cloud, SaaS and other Internet-based content and applications.

Like the study of the cosmos or quantum mechanics, measurements of what is happening in the world of telecommunications leads to extraordinarily dramatic numbers. Cisco for many years has authored a good deal of these numbers in its Virtual Network Index (VNI) report, which looks at the trends in network traffic.


IT Business Edge has covered the VNI on an ongoing basis. Cisco now is taking a swipe at assessing cloud traffic. It has generated numbers that are worthy of a VNI, or a cosmologist assessing the size of the universe. The vendor said that the global cloud will grow by a factor of 12 by 2015, which is a 66 percent compound annual growth rate. In the impressive-sounding-but-too-big-to-comprehend department, traffic will move from 130 exabytes today to 1.6 zettabytes at the end of the study period. The press release does offer some examples of what those numbers mean, but they still are too big for us non-Einsteins to understand.

The press release indicates that the company defines cloud as an element of the data center. Indeed, most of the growth comes under the title of internal housekeeping:

The vast majority of the data center traffic is not caused by end users but by the data centers and clouds themselves undertaking activities that are largely non-transparent to end users-like backup and replication. By 2015, 76 percent of data center traffic will remain within the data center itself as workloads migrate between various virtual machines and background tasks take place, 17 percent of the total traffic leaves the data center to be delivered to the end user, while an additional 7 percent of total traffic is generated between data centers through activities such as cloud-bursting, data replication and updates.

The study understandably starts with a tremendous number of assumptions, which are outlined in the press release. It's fair to say that the company likely will be a bit liberal with them since it has a horse in the race. In addition to selling exabytes (OK, tons) of networking and data center equipment, it is putting its money where the cloud is - as most recently evidenced by spinoff Agari's Email Trust Fabric, a cloud-based offering. By the same token, it also is fair to assume that a company with as high a profile as Cisco has a solid rationale for the assumptions it uses.

To say that the data center is the big cloud driver is true, but incomplete. There have to be drivers among end users, or demand in the data center - be it satisfied by the servers in rows A, B and C if a building on Main Street or in the amorphous cloud - won't increase. PC World cites five drivers of the cloud. One of them is mobility. It makes the list because it renders the location of the data center less crucial. This is how PC World puts it:

With your company's data streaming from the cloud, you and your workforce can be productive anywhere there's Internet connectivity.

In the bigger picture, the growth in all of the overlapping categories that commonly are discussed in IT and telecom circles - peer-to-peer (P2P), machine-to-machine (M2M), video and others in addition to mobility - contributed to the cloud's increasing share of the storage pie, and the growth of that pie overall. It's a trend that, as Cisco suggests, shows no sign of doing anything but accelerating.

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