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Reflections on the Top Five Developments of 2011

It’s that time of year:  take a break, reflect, maybe clean up the hard drive.

I had a chance to do the reflection part last week, and came up with what I hope is a pretty good weave of what Service Providers experienced over the last 12 months.

Here is my ‘take’ on the top five trends of the whirlwind year that is still, for a week or two, 2011:

1.    In the crawl-walk-run sequence as it relates to the global shift to all-IP, 2011 went from “crawl” to “jog” — skipping “walk” entirely.

Think about it. Think about all of it, which is a lot, when it comes to the global transition to all-IP: Fixed networks; mobile Internet, Video, Cloud.

Across the world, wherever there is IP, there was monumental change in 2011. While 2010 was a year of anticipation and preparation, 2011 teemed with news and trends about the burgeoning Internet: more Video, more emphasis on mobile broadband; more work on keeping the “big iron” routing and switching fabrics around the world plumbed to keep up with demand.

We continued to do our best to keep up with the enormity of all-IP, with our ongoing VNI (Visual Networking Index) and Cloud Index forecasts. We’re still anticipating a quadrupling of Internet traffic by 2015, mostly because of video usage by mobile and “connected” IP devices. Lots more data here.

2.    Video (still) trumps as the biggest driver in Internet / IP usage.

From our own VNI research and as indicated by our bandwidth-providing customers (cable, telco, ISPs, mobile), the unprecedented growth of video as a percentage of IP traffic went from “possible anomaly” to “undisputed trend” in 2011.

Nearly half, and sometimes more than half, of the traffic being moved by ISPs and bandwidth providers (fixed and mobile) is video. And there’s no end in sight.

We spent a lot of time and effort on this topic in 2011, as you can imagine. In early June, for instance, we hosted an international forum on the topic at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and we continue to ready Videoscape products, information, and support to the overall IP ecosystem.

If recent history is any indication, this video usage trending is a story that will keep going strong, in 2012 and beyond.

3.    Mobility re-shaped the Internet landscape in 2011, becoming a requirement rather than a preference.

Sitting in an airport terminal recently, I noticed nearly everyone was looking at a small personal screen, including grannies and toddlers as well as the expected business types and teenagers. Think about it, how many people do you know who don’t have a smartphone or iPad or some kind of connected mobile device?  Perhaps more to the point, how many do you know that have two or more?

The number of mobile devices is growing faster than the number of mobile subscribers using them. By 2015, there will be more than 5.6 billion handheld or personal mobile-ready devices and more than 1.5 billion machine-to-machine connections, as forecasted by the Cisco VNI Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.

Fast, powerful mobile devices with more and richer applications – especially video, see #2 above – are the catalysts driving remarkable data traffic growth.  In fact, we anticipate that global mobile data traffic will outgrow global fixed data traffic 3.3 times by 2015.

4.    Cloud came into its own (and dropped its grammatical article) in 2011.

Cloud. It’s no longer “the cloud” this year – just “cloud.” It also rose swiftly as a top priority across the IP ecosystem.

Frankly, many of our customers already provide cloud services, including ACS, a Xerox Company; Fujitsu; NWN; LinkedIn; Orange Business Services; Qualcomm; Silicon Valley Bank; Telecom Italia; Telefónica S.A.; Telstra; and Terremark, a Verizon Company.

What happened this year was more of a formalization of cloud. Enough so that we decided it’d be a good idea to quantify it through our newly formed Global Cloud Index, which debuted just after Thanksgiving. The intent, like VNI, is to forecast trends within the data center and cloud community. More here.

Also in the cloudy realm: just a week ago, we introduced Cisco CloudVerse, making it easier for our customers to set up, manage, and interconnect clouds. Just in case you’re not weary of all the clouds in your 2011 life, here’s more on that: Cisco CloudVerse.

5.    Big iron routers got bigger. Thank goodness.

With all this growth in IP-based traffic – from access networks to backbones and beyond – the big-iron routers moved front-and-center this year. We’re now entering the Zettabyte Era and the next-generation Internet – not just on wired networks, but mobile ones, too.

On our end, in June, we announced the release of seriously-enhanced ASR 9000 series Aggregation Service Routers (ASRs). What do I mean by seriously-enhanced? 96 terabytes per second, a 36x improvement in bandwidth. It’s what’s needed to survive and thrive in this IP explosion.

And Verizon just announced it will extend its next-generation 100G capabilities by deploying the Cisco CRS-3 Carrier Routing System platform to terminate high-speed connections closer to the network “edge” in several large U.S. cities.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that a lot happened this year.

My only concern after doing this review is that 2012 will go from “jog” to “sprint.” Guess it’s time to get those New Year’s resolutions cooking….

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