The Internet is Undergoing Crisis-driven Stress that Reveals Needs for Improving Robustness, Capacity and Performance
This article provides a forward-looking discussion that blends existing trends and the current stress factors to help readers understand the big picture of coming changes in the internet infrastructure, along with an overview of the key technologies that will be enabling needed future performance levels.
Background on Current Crisis-Driven Stress Factors
On-going Internet Growth and Usage Patterns
It is quite clear that the internet already is a massive enabler in how people, businesses, and governments communicate and conduct daily activities throughout the world. Some key statistics shown below bring this phenomenon into clear focus:
- Out of the 7.77 billion people in the world (Worldometer), 4.54 billion are active Internet users (Statista).
- Internet usage varies throughout the world with Asia home to half of the total users, followed by Europe — a breakdown of percentages by region:
- Asia: 50%
- Europe: 16%
- Africa: 11%
- Latin America: 10%
- North America: 8%
- Other: 5%
- The United States has the third highest number of Internet users by country, with 293 million (Statista).
- People of all ages use the Internet; however, a greater percentage of younger users are online (percentages below are for the U.S.):
- 100% of 18- to 29-year-olds
- 97% of 30- to 49-year-olds
- 88% of 50- to 64-year-olds
- 73% of 65-year-olds and older
Changes from Recent Crisis Impacts
Vodafone, which operates in more than 65 countries, says it has “already seen data traffic increase by 50% in some markets.” Tech news website The Register reported that a number of collaborative working platforms — such as Microsoft Teams and the video conference platform Zoom — were struggling to keep up with users’ demands.
However, despite the surge, the internet is not likely to break anytime soon. The problem isn’t so much the lack of capacity, but rather that the network can be overwhelmed by a sudden spike in demand. Mobile internet services are often the most affected by a rush of people online. For example, mobile broadband download speeds declined in many Asian countries in January 2020, although fixed broadband fared much better.
New Enabling Technologies will Help Expand and Enhance Performance
- Enterprise and network servers
- Video-streaming, audio and conferencing platforms
- Hard drives and storage systems – more powerful, more compact and of higher capacities
- Interconnects (higher density, robust, automation-friendly)
- Connectors (solder-free, customized, modular, etc.)
- Enclosures (power sources, cooling and thermal solutions, rack-mount, etc.)
- Module-level integration
However, from this crisis, we have learned a lot about how and where these stresses had the most impact, so we now have key insights to help target future upgrades. We have also learned a lot through ad-hoc traffic demands and application innovations about how the internet can best serve the “new normal” that we will experience going forward.
By building on these learnings and addressing the weak points identified, the thought leaders in the internet industry and applications designers can work together to improve both the on-going level of performance and the surge capacity to handle future unexpected events when and if they occur.