Gauging the need for speed: Cisco's VNI forecast and the role of IPv6

Samantha Bookman, FierceTelecomThe connected era--where devices accessing IP data networks are ubiquitous--is here, and it's not going away. At a time where even my technology-averse mom is gleefully sending texts to her grandchildren via smartphone and prowling Facebook to see what her retired friends are up to, it's not hard to deduce that the way we communicate has almost completely shifted.

That this is creating a problem of massive proportions in terms of providing the bandwidth to accommodate three generations of consumers is also evident: some might say Zettabyte proportions. Well, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) would say that, as would anyone who scanned their latest Visual Networking Index, which forecasts global IP traffic through 2015.

By the end of 2011, there will be more networked devices than people on earth. By 2015, there will be twice as many. This includes personal computers and mobile devices as well as M2M (machine to machine) modules.  

Online video chomps away
All these connections spell out network traffic: Online video, already taking up 20 percent of all Internet traffic, will eat up more than 50 percent of consumer Internet traffic in 2012, the report says. Data cap advocates may be dismayed by Cisco's prediction that by next year over 1 million households will generate over 1 Terabyte per month of Internet traffic. By 2015, global IP traffic will sit just south of 1 Zettabyte.

Cisco VNI 2011 video traffic

Global IP traffic, 2010-2015. Internet video will make up 61% of traffic by 2015.

For some, Cisco's forecast spells out opportunity in terms of IP-based services that have yet to be thought up. But for many, the exponential increase in traffic spells trouble, pure and simple. The networks and backbone on which all this traffic must travel are still being built and lagging behind demand.

IPv6 in a big traffic scenario
All this leads into the capabilities of IPv6 and its role in optimizing Internet traffic. While it's only one component of data delivery--big pipes are still needed to transport the vast volume of IP traffic crossing networks--the massively higher number of available IPv6 addresses (compared to the already-depleted pool of IPv4 addresses) means more secure and reliable delivery of IP data from one point to another.

If this sounds like a lead-in to some kind of plug for IPv6, well, it is. Next Wednesday, June 8, Internet service providers, connectivity providers, and Internet-focused businesses around the globe will participate in World IPv6 Day. For 24 hours, sites like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and service providers like Hurricane Electric will use the IPv6-only protocol. While the change may not be apparent to consumers--other than perhaps a little slowdown on participating sites or a temporary inability to load pages--the all-day test should provide interesting data on migration to IPv6 and highlight certain issues in transitioning.

Starting on Monday, FierceTelecom will be focusing on World IPv6 Day with a series of profiles of people involved in the IPv6 transition. We'll be talking with folks from Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Blue Coat, Global Crossing (Nasdaq: GLBC), the University of New Hampshire's Interoperability Laboratory (a leader in IPv6 interoperability testing) and more. I hope you'll check them out, and participate in the discussion through the comments section.

Meantime, if you want to learn more about the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 and some of the challenges involved, check out this special report, "Crossing the great divide: Migrating to IPv6" and see all of our IPv6 coverage as it happens.

See you next week.--Sam