Internet now dominated by ‘traffic superpowers’

Something extraordinary is happening to the Internet. According to one of the largest analyses of traffic yet undertaken, what the world calls ‘ the Internet’ is rapidly turning into an entity that exists inside and between a tiny number of hosting superpowers.According to Arbor Networks, which gathered the data for its 2009 Atlas Observatory Report (due to be posted online on Tuesday), the implications of this will be profound. see:Two-Year Study of Global Internet Traffic Will Be Presented At NANOG47 – Arbor Networks, the University of Michigan and Merit Network To Present Two-Year Study of Global Internet Traffic At NANOG47 [news release]News Facts:

  • Arbor Networks, the University of Michigan and Merit Network today announced that they will be presenting the findings of the Internet Observatory Report at NANOG47 in Dearborn, MI on October 19.
  • The report is believed to be the largest study of global Internet traffic since the start of the commercial Internet in the mid-1990s. The report offers analysis of two years worth of detailed traffic statistics from 110 large and geographically diverse cable operators, international transit backbones, regional networks and content providers.
  • At its peak, the study monitored more than 12 terabits-per-second and a total of more than 256 exabytes of Internet traffic over the two-year life of the study.
  • The Internet Observatory Report includes a discussion around significant changes in Internet topology and commercial inter-relationships between providers; analysis of changes in Internet protocols and applications; and a concluding analysis of Internet growth trends and predictions of future trends.
  • Unlike other Internet traffic trend reports, the Internet Observatory Report provides a truly-global view into traffic trends as a result of Arbor’s “trusted partner” status amongst the Internet Service Provider (ISP) community. A main source of Internet traffic data analyzed for the Internet Observatory report was gathered from ATLAS data – an ongoing collaborative effort with 100+ ISPs, distributed globally across 17 countries, all who have agreed to share anonymous security, traffic and routing data on an hourly basis.
  • This report is just another example of Arbor’s pioneering efforts to continually find collaboration points within the ISP community, facilitating cross-provider information sharing in order to solve critical issues such as network security and management, application visibility and capacity planning. The Internet Observatory was designed as a complement to Arbor’s annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report which provides data – on an annual basis – useful to network operators so that they can make informed decisions about their use of network security technology to protect their mission-critical infrastructure.

Key Findings:

  • Evolution of the Internet Core: Over the last five years, Internet traffic has migrated away from the traditional Internet core of 10 to 12 Tier-1 international transit providers. Today, the majority of Internet traffic by volume flows directly between large content providers, datacenter / CDNs and consumer networks. Consequently, most Tier-1 networks have evolved their business models away from IP wholesale transit to focus on broader cloud / enterprise services, content hosting and VPNs.
  • Rise of the ‘Hyper Giants’: Five years ago, Internet traffic was proportionally distributed across tens of thousands of enterprise managed web sites and servers around the world. Today, most content has increasingly migrated to a small number of very large hosting, cloud and content providers. Out of the 40,000 routed end sites in the Internet, 30 large companies – “hyper giants” like Limelight, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and YouTube – now generate and consume a disproportionate 30% of all Internet traffic.
  • Applications Migrate to the Web: Historically, Internet applications communicated across a panoply of application specific protocols and communication stacks. Today, the majority of Internet application traffic has migrated to an increasingly small number of web and video protocols, including video over web and Adobe Flash. Other mechanisms for video and application distribution like P2P (peer-to-peer) have declined dramatically in the last two years.
  • A New Internet Ecosystem: Over the last five years, macroeconomic forces have radically transformed the global Internet commercial ecosystem. Economic changes, including the collapse of wholesale IP transit and the dramatic growth in advertisement-supported service, reversed decade-old business dynamics between transit providers, consumer networks and content providers. A wave of innovation is ongoing, with service providers now offering everything from triple play services to managed security services, VPNs and increasingly, CDNs. This change in the Internet business ecosystem has significant ongoing implications for backbone engineering, design of Internet scale applications and research.

Supporting Quotes:
Vince Vittore, Senior Analyst, Yankee Group
“The size and scale of the data behind The Internet Observatory report is what I find truly valuable. The report highlights some of the key trends that we have been following at Yankee Group for years and backs them up with quantitative data from real networks. Driven by a coalescing of content ownership and new disruptive distribution models, the business of the Internet is changing rapidly. As a result we think consumers and service providers must be prepared for a second phase of the commercial Internet.”Nicolas Fischbach, director of network architecture at COLT
“The evolving network interconnection ecosystem has been loosely evident to network operators for a while now, this research qualifies and quantifies those changes, and highlights many of the associated attributable effects with which network operators must consider. For example, more densely interconnected edge networks enables more localized traffic exchange, however, it also means that traffic passed to traditional transit networks is quite likely to be destined for non-local destinations – often escalating costs for the transit network and negatively impacting operating margins.”Donald Welch, president and CEO, Merit Network, Inc.
“This study shows that the trends we have been seeing on our network are not unique to the education community. The implications for end-users are significant. They can expect to see better service as the content moves closer to them from a network perspective. The impact is even greater for peer communities, like education networks.”
“We are proud to have participated with Arbor Networks and the University of Michigan in this great advancement in our understanding of today’s Internet.”Craig Labovitz, Chief Scientist, Arbor Networks
“Saying the Internet has changed dramatically over the last five years is cliché – the Internet is always changing dramatically. However, over the course of the last five years, we’ve witnessed the start of an equally dramatic shift in the fundamental business of the Internet. This research report, in collaboration with our partners at the University of Michigan and Merit Network, provides the in-depth visibility into what exactly has changed relative to the business side of the Internet in the past two years.”
“The Internet Observatory uncovers some intriguing shifts in Internet usage patterns that the service provider community – many of whom are our customers – can leverage as they look for ways to improve service offerings balanced with improvements to their business, overall.”Farnam Jahanian, Professor and Chair, Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan and Co-Founder of Arbor Networks
“The data collected through this study and the trends that have been identified provide important insight for researchers and practitioners into the current direction and nature of Internet traffic and usage. This will be of great value in informing further research and development efforts into the nature of communications and security technologies that are integral to Internet evolution.”

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