|How well did your network play during the World Cup
Nigel Hawthorn, EMEA Marketing VP, Blue Coat Systems
As predicted, the 2010 FIFA World Cup was the biggest global event in Web history. More people watched the matches, more tweets were posted and more pages viewed and updated than any previous event.
Of course, this huge spike of traffic caused a number of business problems; reminding us of the inexorable rise in traffic, the blurring between work and personal usage, and most importantly that IT management need to plan for the next "big thing" to ensure that business can continue during popular events.
Akamai claimed a peak of 1.6 million simultaneous streams, many in HD, and many broadcasters around the world delivered twice the previously-highest peak traffic. Just in the UK, the BBC delivered 800,000 streams during the England vs. Slovenia match alone and total UK Internet usage increased by over 30%. People watched on their PCs, through their mobile phones and iPads, at home, while traveling and in the workplace.
The BBC statistics for June 2010 showed that there were 9.7 million requests for live simulcast content in June 2010, an increase of 26% over the previous month and around a 500% increase on a year ago. This reminds us of the growing expectation that live TV can be watched online and that if something is considered newsworthy that users will do this, even during the working day.
As with car traffic to popular events, the traffic problems are in the last few miles. It wasnít the main Internet highways that suffered problems, but the physical bottlenecks along country roads and into car parks were replaced by the final connection to the businesses or sometimes the initial connection to the broadcaster. Some businesses found that their own Internet connections and links to branch or remote offices using their Wide Area Network (WAN) were overloaded by World Cup traffic, meaning that other data couldnít be sent or received and business-critical applications came to a halt.
During the initial matches, a number of broadcasters had underestimated the demand, as their servers failed to deliver the quantity of requests made, leading to outages and poor quality video, Twitter and blogs were full of complaints. Itís clear that a significant demand came during business hour when employees were presumably at work. By the end of the tournament it seemed most of the complaints had subsided or perhaps viewers went back to watching on their TVs, though the later-timed matches perhaps helped the broadcasters out too.
Any popular event will entice the scamers and malware writers out from their dark corners, and the World Cup was no exception. Eight out of the top ten spam messages during June were related to the World Cup, including countless phishing ploys, and there were many Web pages trying to entice people to pay for promised online coverage (often in HD). Scam news articles promised behind the scenes footage that led to the common ploy of "update your codec here" attempts to surreptitiously download malware.
The main issue was the clearly the impact on business networks, there were stories of network traffic failures, followed by rapid emails asking everyone in an organization to stop watching the World Cup and people saying "if you canít beat them, join them" as they downed tools for an hour and a half during a particular match.
Itís no surprise that different matches caused problems in different places around the world depending on the teams playing at the time. The countries reporting the highest difficulties usually had the following characteristics:
- The country was actually in the tournament and playing at the time
- The local rights-holder delivered the matches online
- Football is a sport with a large following
- The match was taking place during the typical working day
- Typical bandwidth at work of less than 1 Mbps per user
- Online broadcasting is popular, promoted by the local TV broadcaster
- Employers didnít bring in large screens and encourage shared viewing
Various quality of broadcast were available, typically taking between 800 Kbps and 3.5 Mbps (HD) per screen. Of course, in a business, this fights with normal business traffic, hence the negative impact on other applications and poor quality streaming for many users who did attempt to watch. As most organizations do not have the means to minimize the effect of live video streams, such as with stream splitting, each new user accessing video adds another stream with the same network demands. In large organizations, where Internet traffic is commonly backhauled to and from the data center across the WAN, remote offices often suffered from poor Internet access and, worse, even to centralized internal applications.
It wasnít just internal business networks that buckled under the weight; public wireless networks were under strain causing problems for traveling users. Mobile data bandwidth usage in the USA increased by 24% and post-match mornings saw 32% increase in YouTube traffic.
Perhaps, for you, the World Cup didnít impact your network. However, it has lessons for us all - Are you ready for the next explosion in demand for popular content? These demands are happening with increasing frequency; take for example Tiger Woods press conference and President Obamaís State of the Union address in the USA. Local news or political announcements often create significant peaks too. Some content can be predicted, but a global live newsflash can appear at any time.
IT managers need to look at their own statistics for the World Cup and plan for the next flood of content, look at each office and every country, watching the growing popularity of streaming to predict and put in place the solutions to ensure business traffic can be delivered during popular "stream-storms".