We have never been as hungry for data as we are today. The surge in numbers of internet-enabled devices and the increasing migration of storage to the cloud is leaving data centres groaning under the volume and need for ever-faster speeds.
Thanks to the Internet of Things, this is only likely to continue. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index forecast, global IP traffic is set to almost triple from 2016 to 2021.
The zettabyte threshold (a billion terabytes) was recently crossed, which marked a big milestone for IP traffic and has been speculated about for years - but it's predicted that the volume will go up to 3.3 ZB in just four years' time.
Some 82 per cent of this will be video traffic and by 2021, it would take more than five million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks in just one month.
Meanwhile, cloud traffic is likely to go up to 14.1 ZB by 2020, when 92 per cent of workloads will be processed by cloud data centres as opposed to traditional varieties.
Clearly, technology has had to evolve already in order to keep up - and further evolution is going to be necessary to support this incredible, insatiable appetite for data both at home and in the workplace.
Thankfully, new developments are constantly being made and better fibre optic cabling is leading the way in terms of moving large volumes of data. Here are just a few things that are making a difference in supporting data transfer.
Parallel optics is a way of boosting the rate at which data is transferred by splitting the original signal. For instance, if it was 30 Gb to start with, it can be divided into three and sent down three separate cables before being joined back together again. This reduces stress along just one cable.
Data signals have traditionally been comprised of one wavelength, but it's possible to send more than one wavelength down the same piece of cable. Russell Dearnley of Panduit Corp explained in an interview with Network Asia that Cisco did this first with its BiDi optical technology.
"They were using two wavelengths, one wavelength in one direction and another in the reverse direction. Because they are independent, they don't interfere so you can actually put twice as much information on the fibre," he added.
Wideband Multimode Fibre
Wideband Multimode Fibre was described by the Telecommunications Industry Association in June 2017 and is already predicted to be key in continuing to provide internet to consumers at acceptable speeds.
It represents the lowest cost means of transporting high data rates and has become specialised to support multi-gigabit transmission using vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) sources. Its channel capacity has also been expanded using parallel transmission over multiple strands of fibre, which increases the capacity of each fibre by at least a factor of four.
So far, the main stumbling block to single-mode optics is getting their cost down to a level feasible for businesses to use in their own data centres. However, since it is so ideal for transmitting data over long distances, it's likely that economies of scale will eventually prevail to make the technology available more widely.
With the zettabyte era finally here and data use growing at incredible rates, making the most of new developments in fibre is going to be essential to keep the internet from collapsing under the strain.