In the United States, smartphone adoption has reached 70 percent, and according to consulting firm Asymco and reported by GSM Arena, this number should hit almost 90 percent by early 2020 as 'laggards' catch up to 'late adopters'. Technology leader Cisco, meanwhile, has released its Visual Networking Index (VNI) predictions through to 2018: Smartphones will take make up the bulk of consumer and business devices with 18.1 percent and 14.9 percent CAGR, respectively. But that's just the beginning for the mobile cloud.
According to the Cisco report, the average number of devices and connections per capita in North America is expected to increase from 5.34 to 9.26, or 11 percent CAGR. What's interesting is that most of this growth comes from smartphones, not tablets – smartphones are pegged for a 66 percent adoption increase, while tablets get only 18. Mobile-to-mobile (M2M) connections between business devices will also see a substantial increase, from 820 million in 2013 to over 2 billion by 2018.
Cisco's predictions offer a warning for companies trying to future-proof local server stacks or those in a colocation data center: Being mobile-ready is a requirement. This means supporting cellular connections for command and control requests, along with pushing data to devices at high speeds. Mobile users are far less tolerant of delays than desktop or laptop users, meaning every second counts when it comes to loading a document or processing a purchase.
While the number of available devices is set to skyrocket, data is the real story. Mobile traffic will increase 11-fold through 2018, and this data will be at least 15 exabytes per month. Why? Video. Already, streaming online video is the highest penetrated residential Internet service, and desktop video conferencing is the fastest-growing business Internet service. Companies like Vimeo, Netflix and Google (via YouTube) are counting on mobile devices to grow their brands – leading to more data on the move.
As MediaPost points out, this poses a problem: Users at the end of the line don't want to see a 'loading' circle when they're trying to watch a new release, favorite show, or connect with colleagues. In effect, Cisco's VNI provides raw data but lacks a roadmap: The need for smartphone-ready data will only increase, but delivery systems already struggle to keep up — what's more, Cisco has consistently underestimated the increase in mobile traffic year after year.
So what's the bottom line for the mobile cloud? Content delivery and effective consolidation. Expect to see content delivery networks (CDNs) rise to prominence as companies look for ways to get smartphone data from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Data centers must also evolve. It won't be enough to run cabinets half full or under partial power load — instead, companies need high density, high-performance solutions that can handle exponential smartphone adoption and data flow.
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