We recently talked about the impact of seasonality on application traffic over networks: daily rhythm, weekly period, monthly activity and yearly recurrence induce massive changes about the amount and the nature of the traffic supported by networks. These variations are similar to the waves and tides that modify the surface of the oceans. They shake boats, rock shores and endanger crews, but after sometimes calm and low tides come again in a sort of "eternal return"…
There is another force to cause inflating traffic over networks, superposed to the seasonal swell: the expansion of the Digital Universe. The same way as our physical universe expanded at different speeds during its past life and is continuing to expand - with a velocity of 75 km/s/Mpc at that moment, according to the last findings of the WMAP project - our Digital Universe is steadily growing: currently estimated around 3 Exabytes (3*1018), experts believe it to grow to 40 Exabytes by 2020, reaching one Zettabyte (1021) before 2030. As an example of the digital inflation, let's remind the web page size yearly increase that has been recently discussed here.
All these data must be captured, collected, aggregated, stored before being used for many different purposes; they circulate many times though local and wide area networks. Soon, real-time communications will bring their participation to the growth of the network traffic: a medium quality desktop video communication, simply set-up with one or two clicks, uses 5 times the average bandwidth per employee that is currently provisioned in most of enterprises' WAN. Would it be a high definition communication? The ratio will reach 25!
In the past few years, the average traffic inflation on enterprise networks has been measured at +30% per year, i.e. approximately doubling every three years. Despite we cannot clearly forecast what will happen in the future, it seems that all the conditions for a faster inflation rate are in place: big data, generalization of video traffic, Internet usage at the workplace, etc.
There is no reason to be pessimistic: this data tsunami might be good news for business efficiency and people's quality of life. It just raises a new challenge to IT managers, about the best way to handle it in an efficient and economically savvy manner.
Illustrations: fishermen in the "raz de Sein" (French Britanny) and Digital Universe (Source: EMC2)