The soothsayers in the data consumption space— in other words, the media and analysts who plumb the nuances of their research in order to project macro-like outcomes for industry-wide trends — got this one right.
When it comes to mobile data, how it's shared, and over what devices and its implications on global traffic, the evidence is overwhelming: Mobile data traffic continues to grow worldwide and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, as smartphones, tablets, and other devices are replacing the "fixed" PC as the de jour computing device, the data traffic, unsurprisingly, is likewise migrating from fixed to wireless networks. Consider the following:
The analysts at Strategy Analytics believe this shift, coupled with more time being spent by consumers online, is going to translate into a huge spike in wireless data traffic, perhaps as much as 300% by 2017 to a peak of 21 Exabytes from just 5 Exabytes in 2012.
As reported on Mashable, smartphone users are accessing the web more often than ever. So far in 2013, 17.4% of web traffic has come through mobile devices. This represents a 6% increase since 2012 when just 11.1% came from mobile devices.
As reported by Cisco in Fortune Magazine, global traffic on data networks grew by 70% over the past year with wireless data traffic projected to grow 66% a year for the next five years. Furthermore, annual growth in data traffic will be significantly higher on smartphones (81%) and even higher on tablets (113%). Smartphones will also continue to be the predominant consumer of mobile network data, representing 27% of connected devices while consuming 68% of data.
So what does this mean for datacenters and the traffic they support in the coming years?
I think it's important to first consider what is driving this usage. As most good SEO professionals will tell you, today it's all about content. Content drives traffic to your site. In addition content is shared between users and servers, businesses, and employees, and even consumers and e-retailers.
As more and more content is passed through a handset of any kind, there has to be a server somewhere — either in a physical datacenter or “in the cloud” that hosts the application that enables an exchange of data to take place.
Additionally, as more and more applications are mixed in to support this level of traffic, some of it originating with large social media providers and others through content providers, even more content will be driven to and passed through mobile devices. The end user experience is so important that latency has to be kept at a bare minimum, just enough in most cases to make the connection to a site, a browser, or an employee's in-box.
This user experience and all the infrastructure are founded on a common belief: that when it comes to the network or smartphones, businesses must get content into the hands of users faster.
In his post on this subject, Bill Kleyman suggests the rise of this edge (or “fog computing”) is about enabling distributed data to move closer to the end user by eliminating latency and numerous hops. This applies most especially to mobile computing and data streaming where users are asking for more data access from any device, any time, from anywhere.
In fact, because it's geographically distributed, support for integrated mobile computing (e.g., user performance, security, and privacy) complement a distributed data center platform. Kleyman asserts edge computing will play a key role in helping reduce latency and improving the overall user experience.
So, what ARE the implications of mobile services for datacenter providers?
Well, when you step back to examine the insatiable appetite for data via mobile devices, the ever-increasing numbers of applications to support its transmission and a desire by content providers to optimize user experience, the outcome is an overall increase in mobile device usage. So long as mobile data continues to be pervasive and content providers continue to ramp up actionable, application-supported content to end users, datacenter growth will continue to mirror both mobile device growth and mobile data demand.