For any developer already tearing out their hair follicles en masse over how to wrangle enormous mountains of online data into something usable, Cisco has some spectacularly bad news for you: that amount of data is set to explode over the next four years.
Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast (2011-2016) predicts that annual global IP traffic will reach 1.3 zettabytes by 2016—just to spare you the Google search, a zettabyte is the equivalent of a trillion gigabytes. Also that year, the global number of Internet users could hit 3.4 billion, utilizing around 18.9 billion network connections (thanks to PCs, tablets, smartphones, and a rising number of networked devices).
Cisco also predicts that business IP video conferencing will grow sixfold between 2011 and 2016; by the latter date, some 1.2 million video minutes could be traveling the Internet every second. The total number of business Internet users will hit 2.3 billion by 2016, up from 1.6 billion in 2011.
The company models its VNI forecast “on in-depth analysis and modeling of traffic, usage and device data from independent analyst forecasts,” and then measures that against actual traffic and consumer data. It offers more in-depth results in a white paper.
For a company like Cisco, a forecast that predicts a rapid growth in network traffic is a good one; that potentially means more customers relying on its infrastructure and services. For analysts and others who need to parse the Web for accurate data about consumer and business trends, though, the prospect of a rapidly growing Internet can be a daunting one.
In a recent survey by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), which provides resources and education to information professionals, some 26 percent of organizations reported struggling to organize content, with another 30 percent claiming poor business-intelligence capabilities and reporting.
“Many organizations have plenty of data—even if it is not always the right kind of data—but they struggle to put it to any constructive use,” suggested the report accompanying the survey data, “either because they don’t have any analysis tools, or the tools they have aren’t sufficiently capable or accessible.”
In 2011, McKinsey & Company’s Business Technology Office predicted that the demand for analytical talent in the U.S. would exceed supply by 50 to 60 percent by 2018. “There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data,” read the group’s report. “The United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytics skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts to analyze big data and make decisions based on their findings.”
Studies like Cisco’s VNI Forecast show that the tide of the world’s data isn’t receding anytime soon. It’ll be up to companies to find a way to analyze that tide effectively, or risk being swamped.