The Future of Mobile Data Traffic and Why the Realtime® Framework is the Answer
— by Sérgio Costa on February 22, 2012
On February 14th 2012, Cisco published a report where they forecast how mobile data traffic is going to grow during the next few years. The numbers are appalling, and show us the urgency of coming out with a solution for what may be a very problematic situation that is rising fast. How can this be a problem? Read on and see how.
We're all getting connected to each other in ways we never thought possible some years ago. Get a new mobile phone and it will ask you for your details on Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, Google, you name it. It will gather that information and provide you with an amazing wealth of information about the people in your contacts. It will even actually populate your contacts if you didn't do that already. You will send and receive emails on the run, browse websites and do a lot more on your device. Looks like magic, but it's just a piece of well-thought amazingly well engineered software. I love this industry.
Of course, there's no free lunch. To be able to provide you with all this, mobile devices (and not just mobile phones — tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, e-readers, they're all partners in this crime) need to use resources; like bandwidth.
According to Cisco's report mobile data traffic will grow up to 1.3EB per month during this year. In 2016, Cisco predicts a total of 10.8EB of traffic every month. That's 11.324.620TB. You read it right: over 11 million Terabytes of information flowing around the world. And that's on mobile devices only.
Every new mobile device we buy nowadays comes with some sort of connectivity (be it WLAN, 3G, etc.) and almost all of them perform some sort of back or foreground communication. Every time your mobile device is getting your email, publishing a tweet, getting the status of your friends on Facebook or checking you in on Foursquare, you are using bandwidth. And the more devices are out there, the less bandwidth you will have available. We need to keep in mind that bandwidth is not growing as fast as its users. We will start suffering from slower access to websites and data, which may not be very noticeable at first. Eventually, websites and web applications will start to offer a worse experience to their users.
It's quite a paradox: the increase in data traffic means that we have more people connected to services quite longer and it gives companies the means to reach a broader audience, or improve engagement with their current users; all this while slowly decreasing quality of service over time.
More data traffic doesn't just mean more bandwidth use
If mobile devices are using more data, bandwidth is not the only problem. That data comes from and gets into servers. Servers hold, manipulate and distribute data. Your website and its data is hosted on a server (or several if you have a big website), which need to respond to request in a timely manner. You cannot afford it to be any different. Fail to successfully respond to your visitors' request and desires and they'll just go find an alternative. That's bad for your business and may actually get you to lose money — very fast.
With so many devices having such a huge amount of data moving back and forth, your servers will eventually start to respond to an increasing amount of users trying to use your website or service. The more users you have, the more bandwidth and processing power you will need. It will come to a point where you will have to start considering about a) upgrading your connection and b) upgrading your servers. All this means more money being invested on your structure. Now, while this may not be all bad news (you are getting more people to use your services), companies enjoy reducing costs, not increasing them. That's economics 101 — in order to have a bigger profit (and increase the stability of your company's wealth) you need to spend less and make more money.
And that's not all. While not connected through a WLAN, mobile devices suffer from lower bandwidth availability (through 3G or other mobile communication protocol), weak signal or service interruptions. The market we are seeing grow the most is the one that has the most severe conditions and, therefore, requires special attention and new strategies. Being able to sending and receiving information fast and using the less amount of bandwidth possible is going to be even more important than today, if not vital.
A big challenge lies ahead: how can you continue to provide a good service, have your website or web application running and providing your users the information they need while maintaining — or better yet, reducing — costs?
The Realtime® Framework already allows you to face this challenge today. Not when you're starting to lose performance, not when you need to throw in more money to avoid losing money, but now, before you even start having those problems.
Realtime® uses the latest protocols to communicate between your users and your servers, through a browser or a mobile app. Through websockets (with browser-adapted fallbacks), you are allowed to keep a full-duplex, persistent connection between your servers and your users. One could think that keeping a "persistent" connection would mean you are using more resources. That's not true and you are actually saving them by being able to:
- Push content — since we can establish a persistent, bidirectional connection, you don't need to wait for the client to make a request and you can eliminate the AJAX requests every few seconds. The client only needs to sit there waiting for data. You are not wasting bandwidth and processing power by doing HTTP requests that, most of the time, will probably bring you no new data at all.
- Reduce the size of the requests — HTTP requests are haunted by large overheads. Even if your user or server is sending a blank page, you will have an average of 4Kb per request. While 4Kb may seem negligible, start multiplying that by the number of users on your website and requests being made and you may reach a very large (and frightening) number. Check out page 6 of our Technology Whitepaper for an example.
At the same time, you are also able to provide a better service to your users. You are not only able to serve content faster with less resources, but you are actually serving content when it matters and not on a set interval. Events and information can take place at any time and you may lose the window of opportunity to provide it to your users in a timely manner. Learn more about this matter in one of my previous post "Is not AJAX!"
When the growth of mobile devices and the traffic they generate is increasing exponentially, the Realtime® Framework can help you pave your future and show you a brighter tomorrow. By providing the means to reduce bandwidth and processing power while allowing you to offer at least the same — and, more often than not, a much better — level of service, the Realtime® Framework helps you reduce costs, improve the interactivity with your visitors and gets you ready for the amazingly shining future that lays ahead. All through a set of tools that will allow your developers to rapidly produce and deploy using the technology, without having to worry about browsers, protocols and servers — it works on the cloud.