You might have heard the news that Apple has built a massive 500,000 sq. ft. data center located in Maiden, North Carolina, and could be getting ready to expand it to double its current size. Apple is getting ready to push a lot of data down the pipes.
The speculation is that Apple is going to use this data center for a new cloud-based service that would allow users to sync their iTunes library onto Apple servers and allow users to stream their media to any Apple device.
Is that's the case, ISPs had better start preparing for a huge increase in traffic across their networks.
CNET's Don Reisinger puts the current bandwidth hogs in perspective:
"In the United States, Netflix represents more than 20 percent of downstream traffic during peak times," Sandvine wrote in a statement highlighting its "Fall 2010 Global Internet Phenomena" report. The company said that Netflix's traffic is heaviest (20.61 percent, to be precise) between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time--the venerable prime time for people to sit back, relax, and enjoy some programming.
Although general Web surfing is tops at peak traffic times--it accounts for 22.7 percent of all downstream traffic--Netflix is easily besting its competitors. According to Sandvine, YouTube tallies 9.85 percent of downstream traffic during downtime. It's followed by BitTorrent and Flash content across the Web, which capture 8.39 percent and 6.14 percent of downstream traffic, respectively. Apple's iTunes platform accounts for just 2.58 percent of traffic.
So, currently Netflix is the biggest single bandwidth hog, scoffing up 20.61% of peak time traffic. iTunes accounts for a modest 2.58%. However, if Apple starts allowing users to stream their content over the web, then you can expect this figure to balloon rapidly. ISPs and mobile service providers might be able to protect themselves somewhat by relying on caps and fair usage policies, but even with such measures in place it's still going to mean a lot more people downloading a whole lot more data.