The "No Network is 100% Secure" series
- The Exaflood -
A White Paper

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What is the exaflood?: Data traffic on the Internet is exploding. Exaflood is the gulf between the demand for data access through the Internet and the Internet's ability to provide sufficient bandwidth to satisfy that demand.

With the explosion of YouTube, IPTV, VoIP, video conferencing, cloud computing, mobile cameras, 3D games, virtual worlds and more, the new millenium is swelling into an exaflood of Internet and IP traffic.

An exabyte is 10 to the 18th bytes. Or more simply stated, an exabyte is one thousand petabytes. A petabyte is one thousand terabytes. We presume the reader can take it from the terrabyte.

It is estimated that by 2015, U.S. IP traffic could reach an annual total of one zettabyte, or one million million billion bytes. But in the more near term, many experts predict Internet "brownouts", due to lack of capacity to support bandwidth demand, as eary as 2010.

The U.S. Internet of 2015 will be at least 50 times larger than it was in 2006, experts claim. Internet growth at these levels will require a dramatic expansion of bandwidth, storage, and traffic management capabilities in core, edge, metro, and access networks. A recent study estimates that these changes will entail a total new investment of some $137 billion USD in the worldwide Internet infrastructure by 2010. And the real number could be considerably higher.

If network providers can't or won't upgrade their networks quickly enough, delays and outages could be the result. The problem might first become visible at the edges of the network, the last-mile connection to homes and businesses.

One approach to the exaflood problem is simply adding more bandwidth. It's the most obvious solution, naturally. It may be easier and cheaper to "overprovision" the Internet than it is to resort to traffic shaping and packet management tools on a large scale. This may not be completely practical though. Demand for Internet and IP services is increasing exponentially, while access investment is proceeding linearly. An exponential curve will always intersect a linear one given enough time. It is estimated that this will happen for exaflood sometime around 2010. When it does, the Internet likely won't collapse, but individual users may increasingly find themselves encountering Internet brownouts or snow days, during which performance may degrade significantly.

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Last modified March 29, 2009
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