Cisco Predicts Data Center Traffic Will Triple by 2018

by Robert Palmer | 11/5/14

In its fourth annual Global Cloud Index released on November 4, Cisco predicts continued strong growth of cloud-based traffic, workloads, and storage. The study indicates that data center traffic is expected to nearly triple, with cloud traffic representing three-fourths of total data center traffic by 2018.

According to Cisco, overall data center traffic is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23 percent, from 3.1 zettabytes per year in 2013 to 8.6 zettabytes per year in 2018. Not surprisingly, cloud traffic is growing faster than overall global data center traffic. In 2013, cloud accounted for 54 percent of total data center traffic, but Cisco projects the cloud to account for 76 percent of total data center traffic by 2018.

It is hard to fathom the massive amounts of annual Internet traffic, and exactly how much data is now moving through the cloud. A zettabyte is equivalent to one trillion gigabytes. Cisco says that the 8.6 zettabytes of data center traffic predicted for 2018 is equivalent to streaming all of the movies (approximately 500,000) and television shows (3 million) ever made in ultra-high definition (UHD) 250,000 times.

Interestingly, Cisco predicts a notable shift to public cloud services, but notes that a significant majority of today’s cloud workloads are actually processed in private cloud environments. Cisco forecasts 69 percent of cloud workloads will be in private cloud data centers by 2018, down from 78 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 31 percent of cloud workloads in 2018 will be in public cloud data centers, up from 22 percent in 2013. Even with public cloud workloads showing significant growth, more than two-thirds of cloud workloads will still be private cloud-related.

Our Take

Information is the Holy Grail in today’s business environment. It is the backbone of our customer and organizational knowledge and it is transforming the way business is conducted through business intelligence and data analytics. The ability to consolidate, manipulate, and extract information for use in a wide variety of applications and form factors is what will drive future business success.

Cisco’s latest study underscores the most important issue facing businesses today: information management. Knowledge workers are creating and consuming much more content today compared with a few short years ago. Increased access to content combined with more sophisticated (often mobile) applications and tools for interacting with that content has created significant challenges for businesses—especially as it relates to managing business-critical information. These trends are leading contributors to continued growth in cloud traffic and the transition from private to public cloud environments.

Naturally, as information continues to move to the cloud, it will foster significant changes in business process and workflow, likely leading to increased adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models. More and more businesses are looking to leverage cloud infrastructure as a means to drive efficiencies, increase productivity, and reduce operational costs. Managing information effectively will be key to achieving those goals. 


Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors for prominent market research firms such as Lyra Research and InfoTrends. In December 2012 he formed Palmer Consulting as an independent consultancy focused on transformation, mobility, MPS, and the entire imaging market. Palmer is a popular speaker and presents regularly at industry conferences and trade events in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He is also active in a variety of imaging industry forums and currently serves on the board of directors for the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA).