The competitive edge IT departments should start carving out now

Cisco’s global service provider network marketing vice president talks about growing data traffic, evolving QoS expectations and the potential of enterprise content delivery networks

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The future, as Cisco Systems sees it: 1.4 zettabytes, 3.6 billion internet users, over 19 billion global network connections in total. And this adds up to one big IT headache if organizations don’t get proactive and ahead of the enterprise communication game, notes one industry executive.

At the recent Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto, Cisco’s global service provider network marketing vice president Doug Webster noted that this would be the reality in the near future: global IP traffic, as projected by the company’s latest Visual Networking Index Forecast (VNI), is expected to triple by the year 2017. In particular, expect the average fixed broadband speed to jump 3.5-fold — 11.3 Mbps to 39 Mbps — in the space of less than five years.

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) will carry over half of internet traffic in 2017, traffic from wireless and mobile devices will exceed traffic from wired devices by 2016, and business internet traffic will grow at a faster pace than IP WAN, are just a few key findings of the Cisco VNI.

These numbers on the surface might seem a bit aggressive, but if history is a guide they just might not be far off the mark, said Webster, adding that the fact the industry is now speaking in terms of zettabytes – a whopping thousand exabytes or a million terabytes – speaks to the rapid growth of global network traffic.

A “Tsunami” Of Data

“To put it into perspective, 1.4 zettabytes is equal to about 1 billion DVDs streaming every single day for a year. It’s a massive amount of data. What this means is that by 2017 alone, service providers around the globe are going to be dealing with more data that has ever gone across their wires in the history of the internet between 1984 to last year alone.”

This “tsunami” of data naturally means challenges from a Canadian perspective. The amount of network activity in Canada is strong — and while the number of users will grow, the internet traffic generated by handsets, notebook cards, and mobile broadband gateways will occur at an even faster rate: Within five years, Cisco projects that Canadian users will be increasing network use by 154 per cent, largely driven by demand for high-definition video content streams.

“The faster the network, the more value it gives us, the more convenience it provides. And therefore it increases the propensity to use the network even more. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: increase the speed and people use it more and more,” he said.

The Power of the Connected Network

So what does this all mean? It means that the next generation network is all about being connected: Globally, M2M [machine-to-machine] connections will grow threefold, from 2 billion in 2012 to six billion by 2017, according to the Cisco report.

Video content is the current and future king, Webster says, and a reality that companies should anticipate in improving corporate communication while extending and expanding the IP network. The network should be thought of in a holistic sense, he added, meaning that the mobile experience shouldn’t be seen as something separate to the overall experience.

“The reality is, the commonality between mobile and the fixed network have never been more clear,” said Webster. Canadian service providers have been up to the challenge of building out networks that reduce latency while enabling faster communication and applications, he added. It’s now up to Canadian firms to leverage the technology to carve out that competitive edge.

“That’s going to be particularly important for application developers and overall content developers — their fates are very much intertwined with the service providers in order to have a strong and effective experience.”

For example, an organization with a dedicated enterprise content delivery network can potentially have a clear competitive edge — in terms of strong hardware support and server technology that is up to the task of facilitating high-quality video streaming and cloud applications across the business.

“Video (in particular) is becoming a large part of every network experience. Increasingly, it’s about immersive applications, immersive communications and experiences. Our tolerance for bad voice is much higher than our tolerance for bad video,” said Webster. “Quality of service comes very much in the picture. It’s not about just capacity, but about what type of intelligence is on the network during delivery.”

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