Rise and rise of next generation internet

 
Annabel Denham
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Adapting to increasing traffic may challenging

THE Internet of Everything is fast approaching. Business has already been transformed by the connection of people across the internet, but now processes, data, and things – anything from fridges to dog collars – are joining the network. This trend is ready to subvert business models, and drive increased employee productivity and wider efficiency through better connectivity.

Cisco projects that 3.6bn people will be connected to the internet by 2017. A total of 19bn global connections will be formed, increasingly machine-to-machine. Additionally, internet protocol (IP) traffic will reach an annual run rate of 1.4 zettabytes per year by 2017. And this will change businesses in a number of ways.

First, it will drive employee productivity, by improving access through remote devices and internet video. Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices could generate 68 per cent of internet traffic by 2017. “If people can work and take care of personal affairs wherever they are, they may get faster answers to problems and issues,” says Deloitte’s chief information officer Matt Peers.

Internet video is set to witness disproportionate growth, with forecasts that global network users could generate three trillion internet videos per month within five years. With businesses growing increasingly geographically dispersed, and with employees on client sites, video conferencing will become faster and more necessary. “During a phone call, employees may be trying to do a dozen things at once. Video conferencing forces focus on the task at hand,” says Peers.

So it is crucial that businesses adapt to the increased volume of traffic passing through their networks each day. In a recent report, the OECD highlighted internet architecture and technical innovation as key challenges. The first is being overcome, with IPv6 (the latest revision of the internet protocol) providing enough capacity to give everyone on Earth billions of IP addresses. New equipment, providing greater capacity at lower unit cost, will help businesses cope with the latter. And over the past 30 years, there has been a consistent decline in cost per byte transferred and stored. “There’s no reason that won’t continue to be the case,” says Andy Hobsbawm of software company EVRYTHNG.

IT functions are grappling with how best to deal with the security issues that arise from providing wireless networks across company offices. But a real issue comes when networks get congested. “The job of the IT function is to establish when we will need extra capacity and how long it will take to procure the right equipment,” says Peers. Technology, like wide-area network acceleration tools, means businesses can use less bandwidth but provide staff with the same service. If a webinar is being delivered online, with many employees accessing that information, firms can cash the content so not everyone is initiating a live stream.

Hobsbawm is unfazed by the challenges ahead. “Progress in mobile communications technology will make it more efficient to outsource a lot of computation to the cloud,” he says. And Peers thinks Cisco’s forecasts could be exceeded. “We never know what is coming next. Traffic is increasing, and that will only grow,” he says.