Cisco argues global cloud traffic to hit 14 ZB by 2020 in latest study

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.


It’s that time of year again: Cisco has released its latest cloud index survey, and the numbers keep getting bigger. This time, global cloud traffic is predicted to rise from 3.9 zettabytes (ZB) per year in 2015, to 14.1 ZB per year by 2020, assisted by greater data centre virtualisation and increased migration to cloud architectures.

The figures from this time last year put the current prediction into context; back in October 2015 the networking giant put the overall figure for the end of 2019 at 8.6 ZB, although adding that the Internet of Everything (IoE) would generate an eye-watering 42.3 ZB per month by 2019.

Among the updated figures include global data centre traffic, which is forecast to hit 15.3 ZB per year by the end of 2020, while global data centre IP traffic will grow three-fold in the coming five years. 68% of cloud workloads in four years’ time will be in public cloud data centres, up from 49% in 2015, providing an interesting comparison with VMware’s analysis back in August, which argued 2021 will be the year where 50% of all enterprise IT workloads will be in the cloud, and 2030 the year when public cloud will be the dominant share.

The types of cloud service delivery models will also change, according to Cisco.

By 2020, almost three quarters (74%) of total cloud workloads will be software as a service (SaaS), up from 65% in 2015, compared with 17% for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – down from 26% last year – and 8% for platform as a service (PaaS).

One evident trend Cisco aims to emphasise is around larger scale ‘hyperscale’ data centres, and how they will have a ‘significant’ impact on the global data centre landscape. By 2020, the report argues, hyperscale will host almost half (47%) of all data centre servers, as well as more than two thirds (68%) of data centre processing power.

Collaborating with Synergy Research, whose reports on cloud infrastructure have long been covered in this publication, Cisco argues there are 24 hyperscale operators globally that either hit $1bn in IaaS or PaaS, $2bn in SaaS, $4bn in search or social networking, or $8bn in eCommerce. From 259 at the end of last year, Cisco estimates there will be 485 hyperscale data centres by 2020. “As with servers, hyperscale data centres represent a large portion of overall data, traffic, and processing power in data centres,” the report notes. “Traffic within hyperscale data centres will quintuple by 2020.”

The report’s conclusion makes for particularly interesting reading, again noting that an ‘extraordinary’ amount of data will be generated by IoE applications – somewhere to the tune of 600 ZB – by 2020, as well as other emerging technologies. “Not only is the data centre traffic growing, but it is also getting streamlined with architectural innovations such as SDN and NFV, which offer new levels of optimisation for data centres,” the report notes.

With regard to cloud readiness – the work of the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) is an excellent reference point in this regard – Cisco adds countries around the globe have made ‘significant strides’ in supporting cloud services. “The focus now turns to continuing to improve network capabilities to support the advanced cloud applications that organisations and end users expect and rely upon,” the report adds.

You can read the full paper here (PDF).

Body picture credit: Cisco

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