HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
June 4, 2007, Herald Journal

We need more broadband, Scotty

By MARK OLLIG

This year, for the first time ever, the amount of digital data that has been created on the Internet will exceed the amount of data storage space available.

A newly released IDC Report (www.idc.com) presents some astounding numbers about the Internet.

Over 1 billion people, or more than, 16 percent of the Earth’s population will be using the Internet this year.

The Internet is now faced with supporting the most intensive bandwidth-eating “killer-application” out there.

Video.

The popular website YouTube, which did not even exist a few years ago, now handles over 100 million video streams a day. Over 65,000 new videos are uploaded to YouTube each day.

Every year, the digital content created by adding up all the world’s audio, pictures, television broadcasts and video cameras amounts to a staggering 75 petabytes of data.

One petabyte is equal to 1,000 terabytes, or one million gigabytes, or a billion megabytes.

YouTube streams that much data in about three months. However, a shift to HD or “high-definition” video clips by YouTube users would flood the Internet with enough data to more than double the traffic of the entire Internet.

Given the phenomenal growth of video and cell phone cameras around the world, these could soon produce five exabytes of video yearly. Upgrades to HD video streams will in time, increase that number by 50 e,xabytes or more.

An exabyte is approximately one quintillion or billion-billion bytes.

How seriously will this “exaflood” of digital information affect the Internet network?

Apparently, some government officials are concerned about potential Internet network congestion affecting the military data networks.

The Department of Defense, in May of this year, issued a directive blocking access to 12 popular web sites from the defense department network. This decision was designed to guarantee bandwidth availability for “mission-critical” functions. Among the 12 blocked websites are MySpace.com and YouTube.com.

“It is a proactive measure, we do not want a problem with demand for these sites clogging the networks,” a US Strategic Command official said.

Here is the link to the Department of Defense article that was released to the public May 14: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=46014.

According to a Department of Defense publicly-released statement, they have more than 15,000 local and regional networks and more than 5 million computers on the Internet grid.

I feel what will be needed in the very near future is an exceptionally large data “pipe” connected to each application device that has a point of access to the Internet.

This “massive broadband network” transmission system must have the bandwidth capacity that can effortlessly transmit huge amounts of digital information.

In 2006, the size of the Internet “digital universe” of information that was either created or captured in digital form was 161 “exabytes.” The IDC Report estimates this will grow to an unbelievable 988 “exabytes” in 2010. Twenty-five percent of those exabytes will be images from cell phone cameras and camcorders.

Remember, from a past column, what an “exabyte” is?

An exabyte is approximately one quintillion bytes. “Exa” means one billion-billion, or one quintillion.

An exabyte is also about a million-million megabytes – which is equal to the information contained in 12 stacks of books extending from the Earth to the Sun.

Still muddled on how big the Internet digital data universe is? Let’s say in 2006 you printed out all those exabytes of data onto typewritten pages . . . you would have had enough paper to wrap around the Earth four times over.

To give you an idea of where all these exabytes come from, just consider the number of devices in the world that create, capture and store digital information that can be carried over the Internet.

As of 2006, there were over 400 million digital cameras, 600 million cell phones with cameras, 900 million personal computers, and 550 million audio players (including iPods).

All of the information from the Internet, or what is created digitally – isn’t always permanently saved on the Internet, for example, when we are watching a live Internet television broadcast (IPTV) or a webcam video feed.

On the other hand, we may want to save and store this digital information.

Video recorders (DVR’s) and the video interface boxes (like TiVo) may store video temporarily. I know that many VoIP calls and web site histories may be recorded for legal reasons.

The ever-growing amount of video information transmitted over the Internet sometimes needs to be stored – even if it is only temporary. This requires the use of complex video compression techniques, networking routers, gateways, and server storage infrastructures. This demands enormous amounts of bandwidth to be used over a high-speed broadband transport medium.

It is possible that, in just three years time, we will have available to us an average of 50 Mbps of Internet broadband high-speed connectivity bandwidth capacity for our homes, businesses, and schools.

Today, South Korea and Japan utilize 100 Mbps connectivity service as a “standard.”

In the world rankings, the US is 15th in global bandwidth penetration.

Here is the link to the full IDC report: http://www.emc.com and type in the search engine “The Digital Universe.” This will take you to the full report