January 17, 2019

Evolution has repeatedly changed the outlook on human lifestyles and keeps doing so. As time moves forward, there is always something new to expect. After the advent of the internet, the world has seen innumerable transformations and transitions; but none of them are as big as the shift to the zettabyte era.

To clarify, zettabyte is a unit of digital information like byte. One zettabyte is a sextillion (1021) bytes. Putting it into a simpler perspective, one zettabyte is roughly 1000 exabytes. To place that amount of volume in more practical terms, an exabyte alone has the capacity to hold over 36,000 years-worth of HD quality video zettabytes consisted of terabytes. That is, a zettabyte is equivalent to about 250 billion DVDs.

Now given the size of the zettabyte, there is a proper explanation as to how and why the world entered into this era. Ever since the emergence of internet, people have been using it for different forms of communication and creating data within the process. Because of this, most web applications captured huge amount of data of their users and stored them for better understanding of their user-base. Data then began to grow in leaps and bounds and formed into an ever-increasing pool. This data pool proceeded to increase and cross one zettabyte in size, and thus entered the zettabyte era. According to an International Data Corporation report, the world officially entered the zettabyte era in 2012 when the amount of data created was of about 2.8 zettabytes.

New challenges have emerged for businesses in the areas of content generation – changes in online traffic and shifts in the usage of devices. In this zettabyte era, data collection and management is becoming an indispensable part of every business and if the challenges of this era are not taken into consideration, the companies will have to face huge problems. Therefore, the zettabyte era has become an inevitable issue to tackle for companies who want to manage huge volumes of data. Internet giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook etc., have already mastered the art of managing huge volumes of data in this era while the rest are still learning. 

A better understanding of the current scenario can be achieved if Cisco’s findings and predictions are observed. According to Cisco Visual Networking Index, by the year 2022, annual global IP traffic will reach 4.8 ZB per year, M2M (machine-to-machine) connections will be more than half of the global connected devices and connections, and broadband speeds will nearly double. It was also stated that globally, mobile data traffic and internet video surveillance traffic will increase sevenfold between 2017 and 2022.

Looking into the challenges this era faces, there are a few predictions which estimate what the situation will be. The use of smartphones is estimated to boost. Smartphone traffic will exceed PC traffic. Research states that as of the 3rd quarter of 2018, 52.4 percent of the global web traffic was originated from mobile devices. On the other hand, video generation across the globe will increase to the point that it would take 5 million years to watch the amount of video crossing global IP networks each month. A new study predicts that video will account for an unprecedented 82% of all Internet traffic by 2020. Cisco estimates that video traffic will be equal to 37 exabytes (EB) per month. Moreover, business IP traffic is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21%.

It is predicted that the business IP traffic will grow the fastest in North America. Large changes have been predicted in various studies keeping the growth of this continent in mind. From 2016 to 2021, IP traffic is estimated to grow 3-fold at a compound annual growth rate of 20%, IP video traffic will grow 3-fold at a compound annual growth rate of 21% and Live Internet video traffic will increase 14-fold. In 2021, the gigabyte equivalent of all movies ever made will cross North America’s IP networks every 4 minutes. Such developments will certainly change the face of the situation today and will require huge effort by North American companies.

It can clearly be seen that the zettabyte era brings complex problems and challenges to the table that simply cannot be ignored if any company wants to excel in the future. The big players have already prepared themselves and the rest are to follow. With the changes in speed, content and online traffic, the game is just getting started. To thrive in this continuously expanding technological market, companies must work on improving in the sectors where Zettabyte now poses to be a challenge.

By Nafisa Nawal Khan

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