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Is the Internet Sustaining the Growth Trajectories Observed as the COVID-19 Pandemic Hit the World?

By: Ivo Ivanov, CEO, DE-CIX International

With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the sixth month of global disruption, many companies readily shared data, statistics and observational insights on how the pandemic has impacted the global data infrastructure. While an increased demand for core Internet infrastructure was quickly observed, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella remarked in April of 2020: “we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

In May of 2020, Dropbox was quoted saying: “Another challenge for Dropbox has been the shift of Internet traffic from being highly concentrated in big hubs to a more distributed pattern. Instead of having a lot of traffic coming from a thousand accounts in a university, for example, Dropbox is now seeing all those accounts access its platform from many different places, through many different networks.” To address this, Dzmitry Markovich, Senior Director of Engineering at Dropbox, and his team have been analyzing its last-mile connectivity strategy and actively looking for more last-mile ISPs to peer with. Dropbox already peers “heavily”, but it’s now indispensable to invest in even more peering relationships.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many industries – including the restaurant, airline, and hospitality sectors to name a few – the Internet continues to be a beacon of hope, maintaining human interactions, education and serving as a business continuity solution. Without today’s Internet and interconnection ecosystems, the emotional and physical strain on people would have been even more devastating. 

At the onset of the pandemic it became clear, how important and crucial the role of the Internet is: as a formidable and reliable connectivity enabler to at-home workers who video conferenced daily, to families who streamed movies and played games online, as well as to students who engaged with e-learning tools.  

Six months in, what trends continue to stick?  What demand continues to rise?  Has the surging growth of the Internet leveled off?  

DE-CIX, one of the world’s leading operators of interconnection platforms, is observing continued growth and demand with increased connectivity requests to its globally operated Internet Exchanges. The immediate surge in upgrade requests has subsided a bit, indicating a leveling off and quick response taken by core internet players to immediately add capacity in anticipation of user demand.  In April 2020, the need for more bandwidth throughout the world with core networks and edge locations gobbling data feverishly was highlighted as the Internet helped communities stay connected, educated, productive and informed – and working.  While this still remains the case, in some ‘edge’ locations, even more so than before, as Internet use surge continued, the digital divide has been more rampant than ever.

Has Internet Growth Continued to Accelerate?  Decline? Or Level Off?

Prior to COVID-19, standard Internet growth of 10-50% was observed across DE-CIX platforms on an annual basis. However, at the start of this pandemic, DE-CIX observed this level of traffic growth (between 10-50% increases) in a matter of days.

The apparent incremental capacity immediately added at the onset of the pandemic remains to be the foundation supporting and enabling ongoing growth by network providers.  Companies that seemingly had excess capacity are now revisiting their projections, adding incremental capacity to support the ongoing usage demand to ensure a reliable and always on experience for end-users. To help provide more networks access to a proven interconnection platform, internet exchanges are establishing new interconnection locations across the globe.

With the observations and quick reactions internet exchanges remain more committed than ever before so as to enhance interconnection options, enable access to the world’s open and neutral interconnection ecosystem and, enable companies a quick and reliable access to other networks, content, applications and cloud solutions.

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