Cyber Monday and Internet Brown-outs
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For those in the US, last friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the official start of the Holiday shopping season. This has been called [Black Friday] as some stores open as early as 4am in the morning, when it is still dark outside, to offer special discount prices. Some shoppers camp out in sleeping bags and lawn chairs in front of stores overnight to be the first to get in.
Not surprisingly, some folks don't care for this approach to shopping, and prefer instead shopping online. Since 2005, the Monday after Thanksgiving (yesterday) has been called [Cyber Monday].USA Today newspaper reports [Cyber Monday really clicks with customers]. Many of the major online shopping websites indicated a 37 percent increase in sales yesterday over last year's Cyber Monday.
On Deadline dispels the hype on both counts:[Cyber Monday: Don't Believe the Hype?"], indicating that Black Friday is not the peak shopping for bricks-and-mortar shops, andthat Cyber Monday is not the busiest online shopping day of the year, either.
Despite the controversy, all of this increased use of the internet could lead to what is now being termed an "Internet Brown-out" in the next few years.Magaret Rouse of [IT Knowledge Exchange] points to this MacWorld article by Grant Gross titled [Study: Internet could run out of capacity in two years]. Here's an excerpt:
A flood of new video and other Web content could overwhelm the Internet by 2010 unless backbone providers invest up to US$137 billion in new capacity, more than double what service providers plan to invest, according to the study, by Nemertes Research Group, an independent analysis firm. In North America alone, backbone investments of $42 billion to $55 billion will be needed in the next three to five years to keep up with demand, Nemertes said.
If the "161 Exabytes" figure sounds familiar, it is probably from the IDC Whitepaper [The Expanding Digital Universe] that estimated the 161 Exabytes created, captured or replicated in 2006 will increase six-fold to 988 Exabytes by the year 2010. This is not just video captured for YouTube by internet users, but also corporate data captured by employees, and all of the many replicated copies. The IDC whitepaper was based on an earlier University of California Berkeley's often-cited 2003[How Much Info?] study, which not only looked at magnetic storage (disk and tape), but also optical, film, print, and transmissions over the air like TV and Radio.
A key difference was that while UC Berkeley focused on newly created information, the IDC study focused on digitized versions of this information, and included theadded impact of replication.It is not unusual for a large corporate databases to be replicated many times over. This is done for business continuity, disaster recovery, decision support systems, data mining, application testing, and IT administrator training. Companies often also make two or three copies of backups or archives on tape or optical media, to storethem in separate locations.
Likewise, it should be no surprise that internet companies maintain multiple copies of data to improve performance.How fast a search engine can deliver a list of matches can be a competitive advantage. Content providers may offer the same information translated into several languages.Many people replicate their personal and corporate email onto their local hard drives, to improve access performance, as well as to work offline.
The big question is whether we can assume that an increased amount of information created, captured and replicated will have a direct linear relation to the growth of what is transmitted over the internet. Three fourths of the U.S. internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of online video in May 2007, is this also expected to grow six-fold by 2010? That would be fifteen hours a month, at current video densities, or more likely it would be the same 158 minutes but of much higher quality video.
On the other hand, much of what is transmitted is never stored, or stored for only very short periods of time.Some of these transmissions are live broadcasts, you are either their to watch and listen to them when they happen, or you are not. Online video games are a good example. The internet can be used to allow multiple players to participate in real time, but much of this is never stored long-term. An interesting feature of the Xbox 360 is to allow you to replay "highlight" videos of the game just played, but I do not know if these can be stored away or transferred to longer term storage.
Of course, there will always be people who will save whatever they can get their hands on. Wired Magazine has anarticle [Downloading Is a Packrat's Dream], explaining that many [traditional packrats] are now also "digital packrats", and this might account for some of this growth. If you think you might be a digital packrat,Zen Habits offers a [3-step Cure].
In any case, the trends for both increased storage demand, and increased transmission bandwidth requirements, are definitely being felt. Hopefully, the infrastructure required will be there when needed.