Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Cisco: The Internet Is, Like, Really Big, and Getting Bigger

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

That’s how the late British writer Douglas Adams tried to quantify the size of the universe. Once a year, networking giant Cisco Systems tries to do the same thing regarding the Internet. Its measurements, given Cisco’s insight into the amount of networking gear being sold to service providers, are a tad more precise.

Cisco, which released its annual Visual Networking Index forecast today, says that the total amount of Internet traffic will quadruple by 2015 to reach a level of 966 exabytes consumed over networks annually. That’s nearly a fully zettabyte. (For those keeping score, the next unit of measure is the yottabyte, and beyond that there is no name yet chosen.) On an hourly basis, the amount of data consumed will equal the contents of 28 million DVDs. The increase of 200 exabytes between 2014 and 2015 is by itself more than all the data consumed in 2010.

I talked with Suraj Shetty, Vice President of Global Service Provider Marketing at Cisco’s service provider unit, who told me that what’s driving all this data consumption is the explosion of wireless devices joining the network, but then you knew that already. Video is also a big driver–Cisco certainly has staked a lot of its strategic future on video–and will by its reckoning account for more than 61 percent of total traffic on the Internet by 2015 versus 40 percent today.

Consumers are responsible for most of that growth, Shetty says, accounting for about 87 percent of the increase. Households will be consuming on average about 62 gigabytes per month on a global basis, though that will vary greatly by region, he says. In the U.S., for example, your average household will consume more than 100 gigabytes per month.

Since we’re talking about big things that are hard to comprehend, I thought I’d include the image above, which is the very latest map showing all of the known universe, courtesy of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.


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First the NSA came for, well, jeez pretty much everybody’s data at this point, and I said nothing because wait how does this joke work

— Parker Higgins via Twitter