Cisco Study Predicts a Cloudy Future, But Your Data Center Will Still Be Plenty Busy

For all the talk of cloud computing and how it will – or might – ease the burden on data centers, judging by a recently release report from Cisco I would say don’t count on subletting your data center space any time soon.

The Cisco Global Cloud Index, 2010-2015, is an ongoing Cisco attempt to forecast the growth of global data center and cloud-based IP traffic. It’s based on analysis of lots of analyst data on things like server shipments and Cisco’s own analysis of actual data centers of varying sizes.

In the end, Cisco comes up with some impressive numbers. Consider:

  • Global data center IP traffic will increase fourfold over the next 5 years. Overall, data center IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33 percent from 2010 to 2015.
  • The number of workloads per installed traditional server will increase from 1.4 in 2010 to 2.0 in 2015.
  • The number of workloads per installed cloud server will increase from 3.5 in 2010 to 7.8 in 2015.
  • By 2014, more than 50 percent of all workloads will be processed in the cloud.

Now you might be thinking, if more than 50 percent of all workloads are processed in the cloud, won’t that ease the pressure on my data center?  Yes and no. Yes because that is traffic that isn’t in your data center (although it’s in somebody’s data center, somewhere). And no because of that first stat: data center traffic will increase fourfold. That means your overall data center traffic will still be growing big-time.

One of the reasons has to do with the changing nature of data center traffic. As the Cisco report says:

From 2000 to 2008, peer-to-peer file sharing dominated Internet traffic. As a result, the majority of Internet traffic did not touch a data center, but was communicated directly between Internet users. Since 2008, most Internet traffic has originated or terminated in a data center.

Additionally, whereas once most traffic flowed to or from a data center, today more traffic is staying inside the data center – 77 percent of it in 2010, according to Cisco. While Cisco expects cloud offerings to take on more of that traffic over time, it will be a slow, gradual decline – to only 76 percent in 2015.

Cisco attributes this to several factors:

  • Functional separation of application servers and storage, which requires all replication and backup traffic to traverse the data center
  • Functional separation of database and application servers, such that traffic is generated whenever an application reads from or writes to a central database
  • Parallel processing, which divides tasks into multiple smaller tasks and sends them to multiple servers, contributing to internal data center traffic

Virtualization also contributes to the amount of data center traffic. With virtual storage, for example, traffic is no longer contained with a rack or server, thus increasing overall traffic within the data center.

So, yes, more data center traffic is going to the cloud, but the overall traffic rate is increasing at such a rapid clip that it looks like you’ll still need a happy, healthy data center of your own for a good, long time.

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