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Looking Ahead: Part 4 – Announcing the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we covered the findings of the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study - but today is a little different.  Come on, I know you.  We’ve been together in this corner of the blogosphere for awhile now…and I know you’re already looking ahead to the weekend (as am I, my Zettabyte-loving buddies). So in that anticipatory spirit, I think it is fitting that this final post on this study be forward-looking as well.

True, I did say in the first post, that Cisco VNI Usage is focused on the current trends while the Cisco VNI Forecast is focused on the future traffic growth over the next half decade -- but these distinct research platforms are really more complementary than siloed.  That’s because we actually use the VNI Usage findings to help shape and refine the input assumptions for our VNI Forecast model.  Combined with ever-changing third-party subscription growth forecasts, VNI Usage guidance and validation helps us maintain the high level of credibility that our Forecast receives (per frequent and in-depth scrutiny from regulators and our customers).

Here are our main takeaways from the Cisco VNI team as we start to do advance work on the next revision of our Forecast:

When the two Cisco VNI research platforms are compared, there are several striking similarities:

  VNI Forecast VNI Usage
GB of Internet Traffic per Month per Connection in 2009 (Q3) 11.8 11.4*
GB of Internet Traffic per Month per Connection in 2010 (Q3) 15.6 14.9*
Growth in Internet Traffic per Month per Connection from 2009-2010 31.5% 30.7%*

The comparatively slight differences between VNI Usage results and VNI Forecast projections can be attributed to the source of the contributed  VNI Usage data (a random sampling of more than 20 global service providers), while the VNI Forecast effort is designed to be a comprehensive, worldwide model.  If we were to do a weighted average of providers based on the total number of broadband lines in their region, the VNI Usage numbers would likely be much higher as developed countries tend to consume more bandwidth than those countries with less developed infrastructure -- but regardless, we were quite pleased to see the independent efforts come out so closely.

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Top Site Movers and Shakers: Part 3 – Announcing the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study

So, in the previous two blog posts, here and here, we covered the following results of the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study:

  • Q. How much broadband traffic global subscribers are generating?:
    A. 14.9 gigabytes per month, an increase of 31% from last year
  • Q. What applications are global subscribers using to consume that bandwidth?:
    A. Online video applications account for 26% of total global IP traffic
  • Q. When are global subscribers using network resources?:
    A. All the time, but especially during “Internet Prime Time” between 9pm and 1am (globally)

Now, let’s focus on Internet activity. How are people using the Internet and what sites are they visiting?

Here are a few takeaways that our VNI Usage study revealed:

  • Over one-third of the top 50 sites by volume are video sites, the largest percentage of any category. This makes sense since online video is now the top application used on the network.  However, on that list, there is a high degree of diversity among the video sites in the top 50, including video viewed on gaming consoles, Internet TV, short-form user-generated video, commercial video downloads, and video distributed via content delivery networks (CDNs). So it’s not just about Youtube, Megavideo, and Facebook, but sites that are optimized for longer form content too.

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Prime Time for Broadband: Part 2 – Announcing the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study

As I discussed yesterday, the Cisco VNI Usage Study is able to help translate the theoretical to the real, showcasing actual data sourced from a representative sampling of SP networks worldwide. Because it is primary data, we’re able to parse the information a number of different ways - we can effectively slice and dice it like a Ginsu -- not just at a high level, but down to hourly granularity.  When reconciled with the many time zones this study covers, it provides some great insights into user behavior across multiple geographic regions.

For example:

  • “Busy hour” traffic grew at a faster pace than average traffic, growing 41 percent since last year. Peak-hour Internet traffic is 72 percent higher than Internet traffic during an average hour. The ratio of the busy hour to the average hour increased from 1.59 to 1.72, globally.  So, if you are a network planner, it’s not enough just to plan for the basic growth forecast of -- you must account for the daily peaks as well.  Based on our findings, that means planning for an overall capacity nearly ¾ more than the top-line traffic growth estimates in order to prevent massive congestion during daily peak periods.
  • Voice and video communications traffic is now six times higher than data communications traffic (email, instant messaging, instant messaging file transfer). Voice and video communications traffic (such as voice over IP [VoIP] and voice and video over instant messaging) has reached 2 percent of all traffic, up from less than 1 percent last year.  With new tools applications becoming available seemingly every day, from Cisco ūmi to the latest from Skype, this will continue to be a space to watch.
  • Online video fluctuates more than file sharing traffic. Online video’s volatility (defined as the spread of traffic volume during the course of the day) is 51 percent higher than that of file sharing. The peak video hour is 91 percent higher than the average video hour, while the peak file sharing hour is 64 percent higher than the average file sharing hour.  So while the move to online video is good for providers to showcase the quality of their networks compared to P2P where the role and value they can deliver is limited, it does provide more challenges such as the need to accommodate greater volatility.

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Announcing the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study Findings

Few things get me as fired up about this industry as being able to dive into some serious data about, well, data. By now, most of our readership is quite familiar with our Cisco Visual Networking Index study or VNI. It’s comprised of several separate efforts, with the VNI Forecast being the best known of the bunch and the one that is most often quoted in the media, used by regulators, and factored into architectural plans by our customers. The Forecast is, as its name conveys, offers a forward looking view. Using third party subscription growth forecasts and advanced modeling techniques, we deliver an estimate of the amount of traffic that will be crossing global IP networks over the next half decade.

But what is real traffic looking like now, you ask?

For that, we have the Cisco VNI Usage study - unlike the Forecast, which uses third-party subscription growth inputs, VNI Usage assess the activity taking place over networks every day.  It’s a compilation of anonymous data sourced from millions of broadband subscriber lines from over 20 service providers worldwide.  While we don’t know the names of the user or the specific content viewed, this unique, primary data does provide subscriber-level insights into a variety of factors such as: the type of applications used; when and how much bandwidth is consumed; and a context for the networking trends and challenges that many network operators are grappling with today.  It’s real data on data that’s real interesting (and you can quote me on that).  Over a series of several posts this week, I’ll dive into details of the Cisco VNI Usage study that was just released this week and covers the research period of the third calendar quarter of 2010.

Here are some top takeaways:

  • The average broadband connection generates 14.9 GB of Internet traffic per month, up from 11.4 GB per month last year when we ran this same study - this is an increase of 31 percent when averaged out across the global subscriber base.
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is now 25 percent of global broadband traffic - last year it was 38 percent of total traffic.  It’s important to know that despite this significant drop in percentage, the overall about to traffic generated by P2P in absolute terms is still growing - it’s just growing more slowly than visual networking and other advanced applications such as online video.  Which leads me to…

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