What's Driving the 400G Data Center?


by Andrew Lui

For many of us, we are living in a world built by data. Just think about how many things you interact with everyday that is supported by and generates data: smart devices, social media, virtual meeting rooms, Anything-as-a-Service, the Internet of Everything; and the list is still growing exponentially. With so much of the world depending these services, it's no wonder data centers are going through a transformation.

It is estimated that 3.04 exabytes of data is generated every day, but I suspect it may be much higher. That's quite a lot and data centers are growing with the demand. Not only are data centers getting larger, market research by Omdia has shown that 400G shipment volume will overtake 100G by 2025. No doubt, many cloud service providers are on their way towards building 400G data centers. So, what has led us to the point where 400G is looking like a necessity and will consumer trends persist to drive data centers over the tipping point? Let's take a look closer at what's driving the 400G data center.

Video Streaming Services

It goes without saying that video streaming platforms are taking the world of entertainment industry by storm. According to Deloitte, watching TV and movies at home is the most popular type of entertainment among US adults over 24 years old.

How much data does a video streaming platform consume? Netflix is currently the most popular platform in the world. Their company profile as of Q2 2021 boasts a whopping 209 million subscribers worldwide. The average Netflix subscriber can spend as much as 3.2 hours per day watching and a typical medium quality stream on Netflix consumes 0.7GB per hour we can calculate that Netflix subscribers will consume 468,160 TB of data per day. This gets much larger as we move to high definition and 4K video quality, which consumes about 3GB per hour and 7GB per hour respectively.

Netflix 209M subscribers: Netflix
Netflix subscriber watch time: Average 2 hours (Variety) with 60% increase (Nielson)
Netflix video data consumption: Netflix


Video Conferencing Services

If you have international team members or customers, most likely you're already familiar with video conferencing tools. What was unexpected was the trend of conferencing with local team members and customers as well. What 2020 did was just that. Working from home and social distancing brought video conferencing to the front stage. In the US alone, as of August 2021, there were still about 20.56 million people working from home.

Some of the more popular video conferencing platforms and an average consumption per one to one call are listed below:

Zoom: 540MB/hr
Google Meet: 500MB/hr
Skype: 135MB/hr
MS Teams: 225 MB/hr
Slack: 540MB/hr
Google Hangouts: 280 MB/hr

Since I'm not here to compare and contrast video conferencing platforms, I'll average them together for an estimated 370 MB per hour or 6.17 MB per minute.

Organizations have changed a lot since 2019 and so did the way people conduct meetings. In the post-lockdown period, meetings became more frequent with more attendees, but was conducted in shorter timeframes. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average post-lockdown employee will spend at least 18.6 minutes in meetings per day. That is, an average American would use 114.76 MB of data used per person per day and in total the US would be consuming 2,360 TB per day from video conferencing.

People working from home: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Video platform data consumption: gadgetstouse.com
Average employee meeting time: National Bureau of Economic Research


Mobile Services

Before 2020, it seemed line mobile usage was unstoppable. Actually, during 2020, mobile gaming activity spiked and IDC reports that afterwards 75% of that activity will continue into the "new normal." Another activity that has kept its trend is mobile video streaming and consumers are watching more than just movies.

Video platforms like YouTube is providing various educational and entertainment content to as many as 1 billion mobile viewers a day with an average watch time of 40 minutes per session. An average streaming quality of 480p on YouTube would use about 9.375 MB per minute or 375 MB per video session. That equates to 375,000 TB of data used per day just for YouTube.

New normal gaming: IDC
YouTube Views: Fortunelords.com
Youtube Data Use: Makeuseof.com


400G Data Centers and Beyond

Summing up the data use estimates from our three trends (845,520 TB/day or 0.845 EB/day), the 3.04 exabytes of data use per day doesn't seem too farfetched. Considering there are a multitude of online platforms we haven't added into our calculations such as social media, video, gaming, file sharing, and smart devices, just to name a few. As a matter of fact, with the eventual introduction of data heavyweight services involving AR/VR, autonomous driving and the Internet of Things, it may be a good idea to consider upgrading data centers to 400G sooner rather than later.

As data center infrastructure evolves to accommodate new services, 50G and 100G connection are growing in popularity over the current 10G and 25G link to servers. Thus, making way for a standardization of the 400G spine.

UfiSpace 400GE data center switch
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In this Article: Data center