There has been a lot of talk surrounding cloud-based technologies over the past few years, and the need for IT infrastructure and those who oversee it to be ready for the complex data demands that lie ahead. According to a new projection by Cisco, cloud talk will only become more abundant in the ensuing years. Fifty-one percent of server workloads are expected migrate to the cloud, as opposed to 49 percent remaining in traditional IT systems by 2014, according to ZDNet contributor Steven Vaughan-Nichols.

Earlier this year, the third annual Cisco Global Cloud Index (2012-2017) projected worldwide cloud-based network traffic to grow exponentially, approximately 4.5-fold between 2012 and 2017. In terms of data, there were 1.2 zettabytes of annual traffic in 2012, which is estimated to spring to 5.3 zettabytes in 2017. To get a better sense of how big one zettabyte is, think of it as 62.5 billion iPhones stacked on top of each other for 295,928 miles. That would not only span the distance from Earth to the Moon, it would extend another 57,028 miles beyond it. Additionally, the report stated that overall "global data center traffic will grow threefold and reach a total of 7.7 zettabytes annually by 2017."

Putting it into perspective
Vaughan-Nichols provided some equivalent statistics to help put 7.7 zettabytes into context:

  • 107 trillion hours of streaming music; 1.5 years of continuous streaming music for the world's population in 2017
  • 19 trillion hours of web conferencing; roughly 14 hours of daily web conferencing for the world's workforce in 2017
  • 8 trillion hours of online HD video streaming; 2.5 hours of daily streamed HD video for every person in the world in 2017

Most of the cloud computing traffic will be generated by processes unbeknownst to ordinary consumers. Cisco projected that 7 percent will be created between data centers due to data replication and system updates. Another 76 percent will be contained within data centers and largely "generated by storage, production and development data in a virtualized environment." An estimated 17 percent of traffic will be produced by consumers through accessing clouds, video streaming, mobile devices and other activities pertaining to the Internet of Things.

"The challenge for CIOs will be managing these unprecedented volumes of traffic and data without breaking existing infrastructure," said Paul Miller, vice president of HP Converged Systems, according to CIO. "If organizations continue with the traditional silos or hardware-defined data centers, they won't be able to efficiently scale."

As the majority of server workloads migrate to the cloud from traditional platforms by the end of 2014, it is imperative that IT departments and CIOs prepare for the growing reliance on cloud computing servers. Cloud service providers that offer highly scalable infrastructure-as-a-service cloud platforms can help CIOs prepare for these future challenges, especially as high-speed data center networking – operating completely through the cloud – will ultimately replace the tangible servers of today, and probably sooner than most people think.