Measuring the iOS Effect – How the Latest Apple Download Slows Internet for Businesses and Consumers

September 26, 2013 - By Jeff Brainard

Everyone is talking about the latest iOS 7 update and not just because of its slick new features and graphical user interface. When the update became available last week, it created a major traffic jam on the Web. Based on our data from appliances deployed around the world, in the five days following the release of the iOS update, customers saw a 265 percent increase in Apple.com traffic compared to the five days before.

As of June, Apple had sold 600 million iOS devices – 93 percent of which were running the latest software – iOS 6. Rabid fans. Check. Large file download. Check. It’s no surprise that Apple’s servers couldn’t keep pace.

For customers who typically saw Apple.com account for less than 4 percent of their traffic, the number tripled to more than 13 percent on average. In at least one case, Apple.com traffic skyrocketed to over 32 percent of total web traffic.

While traffic from Netflix, YouTube and other streaming video sites tend to be fairly predictable, the traffic spike from the iOS updates can be difficult to plan for. More than anything, the key takeaway is that the web has shifted to large files, like software updates and video downloads – that have the potential to significantly disrupt bandwidth consumption patterns.

As this trend continues, the underpinnings of the web will continue to shake under the weight of this content explosion. Customers will be forced to add additional bandwidth, move to metered Internet plans or regulate super users (a proposition that is becoming more difficult as the web shifts to large files, making all users super users).

The only thing that can disrupt this cycle of bandwidth and bust is a shock absorber that can embrace spikes caused by global events – like an iOS update or the Olympics – without forcing customers to continually expand capacity.

At Blue Coat we believe that caching can help customers address these traffic spikes to save on bandwidth and make it easier for users to download the latest and greatest content flying across the Internet. Case in point, Blue Coat customers were able to achieve up to 99.1 percent savings on bandwidth for Apple.com traffic when the latest iOS update hit last week. We have embedded this technology into products like our ProxySG and CacheFlow to help customers contend with the traffic spikes that have become a regular network event.

While the iOS 8 update is a year away, the World Cup is only a few months away. With sixty-four games to be played, you can bet customers around the world will see significant traffic spikes in June and July – unless their networks are prepared to absorb them.