Thursday, November 23, 2017

How video is shaping the future of the internet infrastructure

by dedicated server provider

How will bandwidth consumption change during 2017 and in the near future? Last year was an important year for the Internet as global IP traffic consumed by end users surpassed one Zettabyte, a milestone in networking that has officially launched a new era.

A Zettabyte is one billion Terabytes. It is a difficult number to comprehend so to put it into perspective, if each Terabyte were a kilometer it would be the equivalent of 24,953 trips around The Earth or 9 round trips to Mars and back.

It took us nearly 40 years to reach the total of 1 Zettabyte in IP traffic, but according to an annual forecast conducted by Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI) the world will reach 2 Zettabytes of annual traffic already by 2020.

This exponential growth of data consumption is not surprising as each day thousands of new users join the Internet with the total number reaching 3,6 billion (almost 50% of the world’s population) and each of them consuming their share of available bandwidth in the world – which of course is not infinite.

What is the major driver of bandwidth demand?

Demand for bandwidth has evolved along with the use of the Internet as we moved from using it for static search and information retrieval to multimedia content delivery to a wide variety of devices on a daily basis.

The consumption of video in particular has led to a massive growth in bandwidth demand worldwide and it is estimated that 80% of all internet traffic will be video by 2020.

This is mainly attributed to the growing use of Real-Time Entertainment services such as OTT-delivered video content (Netflix, Amazon) and IPTV.

Long form video content is no longer consumed on TVs only but is accessible through tablets, ipads, phones and tv media boxes and as the screens of our smart devices grow larger the satisfaction with regular HD quality videos declines.

That is why UHD and 4K TV demand has seen a massive surge in popularity with the sales in North America seeing a 70% year over year growth.


Constant pressure on ISPs and IaaS providers to upgrade infrastructure capacity

The evolution of use of the Internet is seamless for the general user as all it takes to switch from a HD to UHD video is just a click of a button, but in reality 4x the amount of bandwidth is needed to deliver 4K video (20Mbps) opposed to HD video (3-5 Mbps).

The fact that content is accessible in so many forms and on such a wide variety of devices means it is very difficult to predict daily bandwidth consumption, therefore it is important for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to have a network infrastructure with enough capacity to handle any unexpected surges in traffic.

The need for constant upgrading of network infrastructure has led to an ongoing adoption of network equipment capable of serving higher volumes of traffic.

This can be seen in the growing number of shipments of 40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet equipment worldwide. IDC’s  Worldwide Quarterly Ethernet Switch and Router Trackers state that shipments of 100Gb Ethernet equipment grew by 447.5% year over year in 2016.

It is not just the ISPs that were forced to evolve, IaaS providers emerged offering high-bandwidth uplinks to host and deliver the ever growing amount of video content over the Internet and for them it is important to build 100Gb port connections with multiple ISPs to have enough reserved connectivity for their users.

This is typical for long established enterprise IT companies, however the market is being disrupted by relatively new IaaS entries. A good example is the company which offers high-speed fibre connections ranging from 10Gbps to 40Gbps of reserved bandwidth on a single server. This is a huge shift from the standard 100Mbit and 1Gbps uplinks that the market is currently flooded with.

Even at the rate of such a rapid adoption, will the world’s capacity to deliver bandwidth keep up with the society’s ability to consume it?

Upgrading network infrastructure is complicated and extremely expensive, companies need to plan years ahead when implementing their upgrades.

Let’s hope the Internet is ready for what the future technologies such as ultra high-definition videos and 3D virtual-reality have to offer us.