Software updates from Apple have routinely created massive increases in Internet downloads, creating traffic jams around the world as millions of users and end devices update to the latest and greatest version of iOS or OS X. Today’s release of iOS 8 for iPhones and iPads has been no different. As DeepField monitors a significant portion of the worlds Internet traffic, we saw the massive increase in traffic from the iOS 8 release. Immediately upon going public at 10AM PST, users began upgrading. This created an increase of roughly 10 to 20 times the traffic for Apple on most networks.
Aside from all the new features that may be in iOS 8 for the users, there was one other big change that happened this time: Apple chose to deliver a significant portion of the traffic themselves. Most users do not care who or what delivers their updates or data, they just care that the system works. However for large ISP networks that have to process this increase in traffic, they do care. They need to be able to plan for significant changes in traffic volumes and a jump of 10x for anything is a lot to handle.
Until today, Apple used Akamai and other CDNs to deliver a large portion of their network traffic to consumers. Akamai is a content delivery network or CDN, so when your iOS device asked the network to download a new version, Akamai is the company that has the tens of thousands of servers around the world that would send you that update. Not so this time.
Remember all those data centers and pictures of Steve Jobs in front of racks and racks of servers when iCloud was announced? Well, it turns out that for a long time now, most of those data centers were not used by you the consumer for large downloads. Apple has had a long-standing relationship with Akamai, as well as other CDNs to help deliver their massive amounts of traffic to their users. If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to service 800+ million iOS devices? Today marks a new era for Apple where they are taking much more of a direct responsibility for this network capacity and delivering it from their own network.