TMCnet Feature
November 29, 2011

Cisco Global Cloud Index Results - Quantifying the Impact of the Cloud

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

We have all heard or seen the high-level projections that a tsunami of traffic is headed in the direction of service provider networks and the data centers of enterprises and the growing number of third-party services providers. However, what does this look like at a granular level and what does it portend?  The just released Cisco® Global Cloud Index, building upon the research approach of Cisco’s (News - Alert) popular Visual Networking Index (which looks at service provider network traffic), provides some intriguing and valuable insights about emerging trends affecting data centers, cloud architectures and the readiness of service provider networks to accommodate the big waves heading their way.



A comprehensive look

Taken from 30 terabytes of traffic from ten major data centers and over 45 Million speed tests from 150 countries, the unprecedented Cisco Global Cloud Index (2010 – 2015) contained estimates in three critical areas of concern:  

  • Datacenter and Cloud Traffic
  • Workload Transition and Economics
  • Cloud Readiness

Given that visualization is a critical part of analysis, Cisco has created an infographic that encapsulates its findings.



As noted in the press release announcing the results, a more granular summary of the information in the above infographics was as follows:

Cloud will account for one-third of total data center traffic

  • Globally, cloud traffic will grow from just 11 percent (11 exabytes per month and 130 exabytes annually) of total data center traffic in 2010 to more than a third of total data center traffic (34 percent, specifically 137 exabytes per month and 1.6 zettabytes annually) by 2015.
  • Greater virtualization and improved economies of scale will be a key driver of the cloud transition.

Global cloud traffic is growing twice as fast as global data center traffic

  • The transition to cloud services is driving global cloud traffic at a growth rate that is twice as great as global data center traffic. Global data center traffic will grow fourfold (a 33 percent CAGR) from 2010 to 2015, while global cloud traffic will grow 12-fold (a 66 percent CAGR) over the same period.
  • Cloud data centers offer better performance, higher utilization and greater ease of management than traditional data centers. Virtualization serves as a major catalyst in enabling hardware and software consolidation, greater automation and an integrated security approach.

Global data center traffic growth: a four-fold increase by 2015

  • Data center traffic is forecast to more than quadruple from 1.1 zettabytes in 2010 to 4.8 zettabytes annually in 2015, representing a 33 percent CAGR.

Data center traffic sources: Most stays within the data center itself

  • Of the data center traffic in 2015, 76 percent stays within the data center itself, through such activities as storage and authentication across virtual machines.
  • 17 percent is data-center traffic being delivered to end users.
  • Seven percent is generated between data centers through activities such as backup and replication.

Peak end-user activity more than 2.5 times average in 2015

  • Due predominately to the rise in video-based consumer services, data-center-to-user traffic has some significant peaks in activity. Much like prime time viewing hours, the average amount of data center traffic per hour during peak periods is expected to rise up to 2.5 times, requiring the need to plan for additional capacity from data centers and the cloud as well as from the network. The on-demand model of cloud is perfectly suited to serve this type of variable demand.

Workload transition

  • In 2010, 21 percent of workloads were processed in a cloud-based data center with 79 percent being handled in a traditional data center.
  • 2014 is the first year where the balance of workloads shifts toward the cloud for the first time – 51 percent of total workloads will be in a cloud environment versus 49 percent in the traditional IT space.
  • Overall, the data center workload from 2010 – 2015 is growing 2.7-fold; however, the cloud workload from 2010 – 2015 is growing more than seven-fold over the forecast period.

Global cloud readiness

  • To assess overall readiness, various attributes were analyzed: broadband ubiquity, average upload and download speeds and average latency were assessed across each geographic region.
  • All regions included in the study – Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and North America – are currently ready for basic cloud-computing applications, such as social networking and Web conferencing.
  • For intermediate cloud-computing applications such as video chat and high-definition video streaming, Asia Pacific, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and North America were considered to have average network capabilities strong enough to support these services.
  • No region was assessed to be able to support advanced cloud applications such as high-definition video conferencing and advanced gaming, in aggregate; however, certain countries within each region -- such as South Korea and Japan -- are currently able to do so.

In addition, the index found that cloud-based applications or services will have the following requirements and characteristics which are critical for the planning of networks and data centers:

  • Ubiquitous access —Appor service can be accessed anytime, anywhere from multiple devices.
  • Persistent personalization — App or service can apply basic user credentials and customized preferences or settings.
  • Virtual capacity/processing — App/service can store or process data beyond the capacity of (and separate from) the connected end-user device point.
  • Flexible delivery —App or service offers scalable provisioning, usage-based pricing, and can be delivered on-demand.

In the release, Suraj Shetty (News - Alert), vice president of product and solutions marketing, Cisco, states that:

"Cloud and data center traffic is exploding, driven by user demand to access volumes of content on the devices of their choice. The result: greater data center virtualization and relevance of the network for cloud applications and the need to make sense of a dynamically evolving situation. The Cisco Global Cloud Index provides insight into this traffic growth and trends so that organizations can make strategic long-term decisions. We will continue to develop and release the Cisco Global Cloud Index on a regular and ongoing annual basis, contributing to ‘cloud readiness' efforts worldwide."

In talking with TMCnet, Doug Webster, Cisco director, service provider, marketing, made the point that, while the analysis shows much of the traffic explosion will remain intra-data center, the fact of the matter is that Cisco knows from experience that, “the growing number of attached end user devices and content sources, combined with users of all types desiring always on/all ways connectivity is forcing data centers to become much more complex and more network reliant.”  Webster added that this notion is reflected in the facts that, “a 1 Megabyte transaction generates 50 Megs of traffic.”

As Webster explained in an example, “The east-west transactional activity associated with the concatenation of all of the things that need to happen for when I do something as simple as ordering light bulbs from Home Depot is growing exponentially.”

In a nutshell, taking a deeper dive into the methodology and findings, FAQs and other information about the Cisco Global Index (all of which have links provided in the press release) is more than worth the time spent. This is a valuable long-term planning tool, and it will be interesting to see how the results change as we move along given the profound changes already highlighted to be taking place between now and 2015.


Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya (News - Alert), Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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