What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

TedschadlerBy Ted Schadler

What's a zettabyte? It's the same amount of information found on 500 billion DVDs or 75 full-length movies for every human on the planet. And a half a zettabyte, a mere 250 billion DVDs' worth, is the number of bits that Cisco expects to fly around the Internet every year in 2012.

The networking giant has created aVisual Networking Index, a detailed measurement of annual business and consumers Internet traffic. In a recent conversation with Cisco senior analyst Arielle Sumits, we learned that Cisco has used this index and a lot of detailed data to calculate that the public and private Internet will carry 6 times the amount of traffic in 2012 as it does today.

The big driver of that torrent is, of course, video. By 2012, Internet video alone will be almost 400 times the size of the entire US backbone in 2000. Add downloadable HD video, Telepresence, and Internet traffic to the television, and the volume of bits is staggering, even higher than the P2P traffic.

Wow, that's a lot of bits. But what does it really mean? I think it means three things for Information & Knowledge Management professionals:

  • First, expect business video communications and collaboration to take off. Telepresence, HD video conferencing, and distance learning that support the needs of distributed teams will drive the adoption of business-led video. And in classic Tech Populist fashion, consumers masking as employees will drive the adoption of virtual worlds that facilitate business town meetings and employee-generated-content in a “YouTube for the enterprise” model (see the startup Veodia).
  • Second, plan on mastering new video skills. If you’re like most I&KM Pros, your background is in messaging and IT, not video. But to thrive in a video-rich future, you will have to tap into the lingo and toolset of video networking and production: employee-generated content, frames per second, video tagging and search, video gateways, H.264, H.323, and distributed streaming architectures.
  • Third, look for bandwidth price breaks as a free ride on the back of consumer demand. Most of the growth is in consumer, not business, traffic. And that means businesses will get a free ride on the backs of consumer demand. Telecommunications giants will provision their networks to meet global consumer demand, which is always a race to the price floor. That collective dark fiber will give businesses a bargaining chip on bandwidth pricing.

Disagree? Have other thoughts to share? Please post any comments below.


re: What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

That's a lot of bytes. I think you are on the right track. With the digital mandate for TV programs coupled with the introduction of HDTV's, bandwith is only going to go up.However, I don't see business-based collaboration being a major contributor. You can do that now, but I don't see a very strong case for video conferencing over teleconferencing.Entertainment, though is another thing. I wouldn't be suprised if Netflix's streaming movie feature eclipses it's snail-mail delivery. And who doesn't like to watch PGA tour events on Thursday or Friday?

re: What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

I think the consumer market may not move as fast as you might think. Many ISPs, such as Comcast, are either putting bandwith caps in place or are currently considering them. This may ultimately limit how much data consumers send over the net. If it costs me less to send an e-mail versus a video message, I'll send the e-mail and keep a few dollars in my pocket.

re: What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

Great comments, both.On the rise of video traffic, I think that three things will drive it: 1) Telepresence and HD video conferencing. Telepresence is already in the 100s of rooms using T6 lines in some cases. HD Video conferencing is also ascendant as travel costs skyrocket. 2) B2B teams will sometimes need to see each other, which will drive the growth in both Telepresence and HD video conferencing. 3) Employee Webcams will replace chat in some online meeting room situations. I do think the future looks quite different from the past.On the consumer adoption front, it's true that price will affect adoption. But two things will drive that consumer traffic in addition to movie downloads. First, pricing will be under attack in markets with multiple providers. Now that we have video providers coming from three places: cable, satellite, and increasingly telephone providers (not to mention Internet-delivery), prices will always be under attack. Second, video-on-demand (VOD) is a competitive force in consumer video markets with multiple providers. Verizon, for example, is now advertising VOD titles with a message to "reserve it now" linked to a training clip on how to use your remote control to reserve VOD.Great comments. Keep 'em coming!Ted

re: What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

@softomic: videoconferencing (or its Cisco flavor aka telepresence) is not the only driver for businesses. There's also a growing demand for "online/streaming video" in the workplace, not just for 2-way communications but to capture and share video between employees or with customers and partners. In the YouTube era, expectations have changed and business people want to leverage this medium to engage with their customers, help sharing knowledge between employees and increase team productivity / motivation. Companies also want to leverage video capabilities of portable devices like the iPhone to share training and communication nuggets. Video finds its natural place in corporate wikis, intranets, learning management systems. We're seeing more and more large organizations empowering their employees & customers with these capabilities. E.g. think of sales people using video to share best practices with their colleagues, or to capture customer testimonials on the spot. This too will drive traffic from businesses.

re: What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

I couldn't agree more. A recent report, "The Screening Of Global Business" by Forrester's Henry Dewing describes how businesses will use video to support these training, distribution, and communications scenarios.We've come a long way from green screens and bulletin boards!

re: What's A Zettabyte? I Don't Know, But It's Coming Soon

The first time when I used the video conferencing I was really nervous about how do I look or how do I speak through the equipment, but it was a great feeling.