Cisco study finds clouds moving in

Will become majority of data center traffic in 2014, two-thirds by 2016

Global cloud traffic will grow sixfold between 2011 and 2016 while global data center traffic will quadruple in that time. That's just one of the findings in Cisco's second annual Global Cloud Index, an estimate of global data center and cloud-based IP traffic growth and trends.

Global data center traffic will reach 6.6 zettabytes annually by 2016, which is equivalent to 92 trillion hours of streaming music - or about 1.5 years of continuous music streaming for the world's population in 2016 -- 16 trillion hours of business Web conferencing, equivalent to about 12 hours of daily Web conferencing for the world's workforce in 2016; and seven trillion hours of online HD video streaming, or about 2.5 hours of daily streamed HD video for the world's population in 2016.

The vast majority of the data center traffic is not caused by end users but by data centers and cloud computing workloads used in activities that are virtually invisible to individuals, Cisco says. For the period 2011-2016, Cisco forecasts that roughly 76% of data center traffic will stay within the data center and will be largely generated by storage, production and development data. An additional 7% will be generated between data centers, primarily driven by data replication and software/system updates. The remaining 17% will be fueled by end users accessing clouds for Web surfing, emailing and video streaming. These findings are consistent -- identical, even -- with those of last year's study.

Global cloud traffic will account for nearly two-thirds of total global data center traffic by 2016, and will grow faster than overall data center traffic, the company says. In 2011, it accounted for just over one-third.

The rise in cloud traffic is naturally being fueled by shifting workloads. The majority of workloads will shift to the cloud in 2014, Cisco says - 52% vs. 48%. Currently, 30% of workloads are processed in the cloud, 70% in a traditional data center. But from 2011 to 2016, cloud workloads will grow at more than twice the rate of data center workloads.

The average workload per physical cloud server will grow from 4.2 in 2011 to 8.5 by 2016, Cisco says. In comparison, the average workload per traditional data center physical server will grow from 1.5 in 2011 to 2.0 in 2016.

On a regional basis, the Middle East and Africa will have the highest cloud traffic growth rate through 2016, while the Asia Pacific region will process the most cloud workloads, followed by North America. In 2011, North America generated the most cloud traffic, followed by Asia Pacific and Western Europe.

Following the Middle East and Africa with the highest cloud traffic growth rate through 2016 will be Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe.

In 2011, North America had the most cloud workloads, followed by Asia Pacific. That will reverse itself by 2016, Cisco claims.

In North America, traditional data center workloads will actually decline from 2011 to 2016, falling to a - 1% compounded annual rate.

The Cisco Global Cloud Index is generated by modeling and analysis of various primary and secondary sources, including 40 terabytes of traffic data sampled from a variety of global data centers over the past year; results from more than 90 million network tests over the past two years; and third-party market research reports.

Cisco also provided a supplement to determine which geographical regions are most "cloud ready."

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